HSE Settles Claim for the Avoidable Death of Savita Halappanavar

The Irish Health Service Executive has settled a claim for the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from sepsis after being refused an abortion.

On the morning of Sunday October 21st 2012, Savita Halappanavar (31) attended the Galway University Hospital complaining of back pain. Unaware that Savita was suffering contractions prior to the miscarriage of her first child, doctors at the hospital sent her home.

Savita returned later that day, when doctors identified that her membranes were bulging and ordered blood tests. Savita was admitted for observation, but was told by the hospital registrar that the loss of her child was inevitable. Anti-biotics were prescribed to prevent an infection.

The following morning, Savita´s waters broke. An “await events” approach was adopted by the hospital, and when Savita asked for a termination on the Tuesday morning, her request was refused because a foetal heartbeat was still present.

By Wednesday, Savita´s condition had deteriorated significantly. She was diagnosed with sepsis and prescribed stronger anti-biotics but, when her condition deteriorated further, the decision was made to terminate the pregnancy. At this point it was discovered that the foetal heartbeat had stopped.

During surgery to remove the foetus, Savita spontaneously delivered her dead child. She was transferred to the hospital´s intensive care unit suffering septic shock, but she became critically ill and suffered a fatal cardiac arrest due to severe sepsis on Sunday October 28th.

Savita´s husband – Praveen – took his wife´s body back to India for burial and, on his return to Ireland, made a claim against the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) for the avoidable death of his wife, alleging that had an abortion been performed when it was first requested, Savita would still be alive.

The claim for the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar attracted interest from all over the world due to Ireland´s abortion laws that acknowledge the right to life of an unborn child with equal right to life of the mother.

Two investigations were launched into the circumstances that led to Savita´s death – both finding significant failings in the standard of care provided by Galway University Hospital. In April 2013, the jury at the inquest into Savita´s death returned a unanimous verdict of death by medical misadventure.

Praveen subsequently left Ireland to pursue his career in the United States and, on his behalf, Praveen´s solicitor made an application for the claim for the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar to be heard at the High Court.

A court date was set for March 10th but, days before the hearing was due to commence, it was announced that the claim for the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar had been settled for an undisclosed six-figure amount.

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