Savita Halappanavar: Medical Records Incomplete, Abortion Debate Persists In Ireland

Dublin, Ireland — The medical records of an Indian-born dentist who died in Ireland during a miscarriage do not show requests for an abortion, her husband’s lawyer said.

Dr. Savita Halappanavar asked doctors at a Galway hospital to terminate her pregnancy after she was told her fetus wasn’t viable. Her husband said the couple was told the pregnancy could only be terminated if the fetus had no heartbeat.

The medical records turned over to Praveen Halappanavar included notes on requests for extra blankets and tea, but there were no notes for October 22, the day Dr. Halappanavar requested an abortion.

There were notes for the next day, however, but they included no reference to a second request for an abortion.

Praveen Halappanavar’s attorney, Gerard O’Donnell, said the Indian ambassador will be asking for an independent investigation so that he doesn’t have to deal with the Irish Health Service Executive.

Halappanavar told Irish national TV channel RTE, “I have seen the way my wife was treated in the hospital, so I have no confidence that the HSE will do justice. Basically, I don’t have any confidence in the HSE.”

Minister for Health James Reilly denied that the absence of notes on Dr. Halappanavar’s request for an abortion meant the HSE inquiry was botched. He said the missing notes are “a concern and this is a substantive matter for the investigation.”

“I would hope to have a full report before Christmas and the HIQA report as well,” Reilly said.

Savita Halappanavar’s death has put a spotlight on Ireland’s abortion laws. In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that abortions could be performed if there was a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life. However, Parliament has never enacted laws that would protect doctors who perform abortions in such cases.

Robert Dowds, a Labor member of Parliament, said Wednesday that Ireland’s proximity to Britain has allowed the country to evade the issue.

“The reality is that if Britain wasn’t on our doorstep, we would have had to introduce abortion legislation years ago to avoid women dying in back-street abortions,” he said.

A resolution that asked the government to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling was defeated by an 88-53 vote.