Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Husband recalls Savita Halappanavar's tragic final days


The husband of Dr Savita Halappanavar who died at an Irish hospital after being denied an abortion owing to the country's Catholic laws, has told an inquest how he repeatedly begged doctors to save his wife's life.

Dr Halappanavar, 31, was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pains on October 21, 2012.

She died a week later from suspected septicaemia after being repeatedly denied a termination as medical staff could detect a foetal heartbeat.  

Her widower Praveen, 34, an engineer for Boston Scientific in Galway, told the inquest Monday that the consultant gynaecologist twice refused to terminate the pregnancy despite the distressed couple's contention that they were not Catholics or Irish citizens.

Mr Halappanavar said his wife was suffering from excruciating pains and went into shock after being told by the doctor that her cervix was open and the baby would not survive.

“Savita was in distress. She couldn’t take it. (Consultant) Dr Katherine Astbury said because the foetus was still alive she could not terminate it”, he said.

"On 23 October we asked for a termination a second time."

"She (Dr Astbury) said: 'Unfortunately I cannot.  This is a Catholic country.  We are bound by the law.  We cannot terminate the foetus when it's still alive'."

When his wife finally miscarried, he said: “She was in shock again. I was wiping her tears. She was saying, ‘It was a girl, it was a girl.’ Savita was very confident it would be a girl. She already had finalised a name.”

The inquest heard how Mrs Halappanavar was moved to a high-dependency unit to recover, but her condition continued to deteriorate and she was eventually moved to intensive care.

Mr Halappanavar said he had sat with his wife when she died on Sunday October 28 after suffering multiple organ failure from septic shock.

He said a nurse held his hand and asked ‘do you know what’s happening’. “I said yes,” he said.

Mr Halappanavar broke down several times during his testimony to the jury of six men and five women; coroner Ciaran McLoughlin was forced to adjourn the hearing for a short time while Mr Halappanavar recovered his composure.

The couple - originally from Belgaum in Karnataka - had moved to Ireland several years ago and Mr Halappanavar said his wife had found Ireland "so peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of India."

He described his wife as a popular personality who was in excellent health.

The week-long inquest is due to hear evidence from doctors and others involved in the treatment of Mrs Halappanavar.

Her death caused widespread revulsion in Ireland and around the world.

The Irish government was moved to announce new legislation which would clarify the country's abortion laws whilst opinion polls suggest a major shift in attitudes since Mrs Halappanavar's death, with 71 percent of people now favouring new regulations and only 11 percent opposed.



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