Foetus put before mom's health: Inquiry

April 3: The staff at an Irish hospital put the welfare of an unborn baby before that of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar despite the fact that she was suffering a miscarriage, an official report into her death has found.

A draft Irish Health Service report, ahead of the opening of an inquest next week on Savita's death, has found that there was too much focus by hospital staff on the welfare of the foetus she was carrying and not enough concern was shown to her rapidly deteriorating health.

The death of Savita, 31, in the Galway hospital last October led to international protests after her husband Praveen Halappanavar claimed his wife was denied an abortion after medical staff told them "this is a Catholic country".

"The investigating team considers there was an apparent overemphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped, together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus an appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother," said a copy of the report seen by the Irish Times.

Doctors also had difficulty interpreting the strict Irish law on abortion, according to Ireland's state broadcaster RTE, which is only allowed if it is part of an operation to save the life of the mother. The interpretation continued over a three-day period as Savita became fatally ill during the miscarriage.

Savita's husband has criticised the draft report because it claims that he and his wife only made a single request for an abortion. He insists that three demands were made.

His lawyer Gerard 'Donnell has rejected the report's findings. "He is not satisfied because it doesn't answer the question why was the request for the termination not acceded to even when she became ill and her life was in danger, why wasn't it acted upon then," said 'Donnell.

"When the request for a termination was made, she was told: 'This is a Catholic country and this is the law'. He feels there could have been and should have been a termination."

Savita's death, following her requests for a termination while she was miscarrying, has led to controversial proposals for reform to Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws.

Savita was 17 weeks pregnant when she developed back pain and tests revealed that she would lose her baby but doctors refused to perform a termination as they could still hear the foetus's heartbeat. By the time her unborn baby died on the fourth day, it was too late to save the mother.

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