Savita: As the story broke
Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life to septicaemia following a miscarriage. Our thoughts are with her family at this sad time. Nothing in Ireland's pro-life laws would have prevented Savita receiving any life-saving medical treatment she needed.
It has been deeply shocking to see how abortion campaigners rushed to exploit her death using mis-information and hysteria. See the facts, and the truth that has now been revealed, at the links below.
Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life in Galway University Hospital following a miscarriage. An autopsy showed her death was caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of E-Coli. Medical experts state that nothing in Ireland's pro-life laws would have prevented Savita from receiving any life-treatments she required. Two medical investigations are underway. READ MORE
Ireland's top doctors confirm that Ireland's ban on abortion does not prevent them acting to save mother's lives. They say obstetricians know they have freedom to intervene to save a woman's life, even if it meant the loss of the unborn baby. Experts say Savita's case is NOT about abortion. READ MORE
In an astonishing interview with Kitty Holland, the Irish Times journalist who broke the story of Savita Halappananvar's tragic death, now says that the story may be 'muddled' and that it may be found that there was 'no request for a termination'. READ MORE
Abortion campaigners and the media rushed to say that an abortion would have saved Savita's life. They whip up a media hysteria that goes global. Irish doctors are accused of refusing to help Savita because of a 'Catholic ethos' in the hospital. ALL of these are shown to be false. But Ireland's reputation is destroyed by the fanaticism of abortion campaigners, who are cynically exploiting Savita's tragic death. READ MORE
The hysteria builds in hours, and truth is left far behind. 'Ireland Murders Pregnant Indian Dentist'. 'Savita dies because Irish are racist'. 'Irish bigotry kills woman'. 'Just F**king Legislate Already', are some of the lurid headlines and comments slamming Ireland. READ MORE
Despite all the frenzied media reporting, there is no evidence that a 'Catholic ethos' interfered with the treatment required by Savita in Galway University Hospital. The Minister for Health has confirmed that no such evidence existed. READ MORE
Leaked emails show that abortion campaigners plotted to use Savita’s death to push for abortion in Ireland. Secret email conversations between abortion campaigners were discovered by the Life Institute. They showed that the deplorable exploitation of Savita’s tragic death was planned and organised. READ MORE
The hysteria and frenzy surrounding this debate has been deplorable. Ireland's reputation has been systematically destroyed by abortion campaigners rushing to use Savita's tragic death to promote abortion. READ MORE
Savita’s tragic death was caused by E-coli – and by a strain of E-coli that is very resistant to antibiotics. READ MORE
Savita Halappanavar tragically lost her life in Galway University Hospital following a miscarriage. An autopsy showed her death was caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of E-Coli. Medical experts state that nothing in Ireland's pro-life laws would have prevented Savita from receiving any life-treatments she required. Two medical investigations are underway.
Savita Halappanavar presented at Galway University Hospital on Sunday 21st October 2012, complaining of backpain. She was 17 weeks pregnant, and was admitted with a threatened miscarriage to the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit. Savita was accompanied by her husband, Praveen Halappanavar.
An autopsy showed that Savita Halappanavar's death was caused by an antibiotic resistant strain of E.coli-ESBL.
Two separate official investigations have been launched by the Health Service Executive into the death of Ms Halappanavar. We offer our sincere condolences to her husband and family.
Nothing in Irish law would have prevented any doctor in Galway University Hospital treating any pregnant woman who required life-saving intervention.
In fact, Medical Council guidelines oblige Irish doctors to do so, since these interventions are not considered abortion.
Induced abortion has never been considered a treatment for either miscarriage or septicaemia.
Medical experts confirmed that this case had nothing to do with abortion and that Irish doctors were free to always intervene to save a pregnant woman’s life, even if that resulted in the death of her unborn child.
Later, the journalist who broke the Savita story with the claim that ‘Woman, denied termination, dies in hospital’, said that the facts may have been “muddled”.
Solicitor for Savita’s husband also states subsequently that he ‘never claimed that a termination would have saved his wife’s life’.
Ireland's most senior doctors spoke out to confirm that Ireland's ban on abortion does not prevent them acting to save mother's lives. They confirm that obstetricians know they have the freedom to intervene to save a woman's life, even if it meant the loss of the unborn baby. Experts say Savita's case is NOT about abortion laws.
Amidst the hysteria that consumed the airwaves and the print media in the rush to use Savita’s death to call for abortion, it was difficult for medical experts to make their voices heard.
However, some of Ireland's most experienced Obstetricians and Gynaecologists confirmed that Ireland’s pro-life laws did not prevent them from always intervene to save a mother if a life-threatening condition arises in pregnancy, even if that resulted in the unintended death of her baby.
Not one obstetrician said that Irish women’s lives were in any danger because of our ban on abortion. While some of have expressed a desire for legal clarity, all have stated that women are safe in Ireland under the present Medical Guidelines.
Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe who is spokesperson for the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said that doctors do intervene to save the life of a pregnant woman, even if it means the loss of a baby and that there was "no evidence they [doctors] are letting people die".
She said obstetricians believed they had the freedom to intervene to save a woman's life, even if it meant the loss of the unborn baby.
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin and consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, said he sees no evidence of confusion in medical ranks in Ireland over whether or not a woman can have an abortion if her life is at risk.
He said it would be preferable to have legislation to bring clarity, but he said that in his experience he has not seen confusion among doctors on whether a woman is entitled to an abortion on clinical grounds. He confirmed that " This case probably does not have a lot to do with abortion laws."
Medical Council President Professor Kieran Murphy told the Irish Times that its current guidelines on abortion were decided in 2009 and reflect the current legal position. Prof Murphy said the guidelines were prepared after extensive consultation with the public and the profession.
He added that the guidelines are as accessible and as straightforward as possible and had received a plain English recognition mark.
Savita’s death was also the subject of debate amongst gynaecologists in India.
Explaining the complication Savita found herself in, Dr. Divakar — president-elect of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) for 2013-2014 — told The Hindu on: “Based on information in the media, in that situation of septicaemia, if the doctors had meddled with the live baby, Savita would have died two days earlier.”
IRISH LAW PROTECTS MOTHER AND BABY
The Medical Council has very strict and clear guidelines. They state that doctors are obliged to intervene to save the life of a mother even if that causes the unintended death of her baby. There is NO evidence whatsoever that one woman has died in Ireland because of our ban on abortion. In fact, the UN says Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby.
Ireland’s Constitution protects the right to life of the unborn child, with ‘due regard to the equal right to life of the mother’.
In practise this means that, while abortion is banned in Ireland, Irish doctors are always free to intervene where a mother’s life is in danger – for example in the case of an ectopic pregnancy or pre-eclampsia – even if that results in the unintentional loss of the baby.
Irish doctors are governed by the Guidelines of the Irish Medical Council which state:
"In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving.”
“In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.”
The guidelines oblige doctors to save the life of the mother - but also ask that every effort be also made to save the baby – precisely what mothers would want.
The outcome of the implementation of Irish law and medical guidelines is a maternal healthcare system that has produced outstanding results. Ireland is one of the safest places in the world for a mother to have a baby, according to the United Nations and our maternal mortality rate is very low.
A major review of Irish medical practise had previously found that there was ‘no evidence that pregnant women in Ireland were denied treatment for life threatening conditions arising in pregnancy, non withstanding our ban on abortion.
And the Irish Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has stated that they didn’t need induced abortion to save mother’s lives.
In the week following the news of Savita’s death, that expert view did not change.
In an astonishing interview with Kitty Holland, the Irish Times journalist who broke the story of Savita Halappananvar's tragic death, now says that the story may be 'muddled'.
This was an extraordinary admittance given the global hysteria raised by the sensationalist reporting of Savita's death by the Irish Times.
In the interview with the Coleman at Large programme, Kitty Holland was firstly asked why she wrote in a later article in the Observer that "the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established" when she omitted that caution from the Irish Times story that first broke the story of Savita's death to the world.
She was then pressed to explain discrepancies in Irish Times reporting as to when Savita was started on antibiotics in Galway University Hospital.
She then said: "All one can surmise is that his recollection of events -- the actual timeline and days -- may be a little muddled... we only have Praveen and his solicitor's take on what was in or not in the notes ....we're relying all the time on their take on what happened... "
"Oh, I'm not satisfied of anything. I'm satisfied of what he told me, but I await as much as anyone else the inquiry and the findings. I can't tell for certain -- who knows what will come out in that inquiry? They may come back and say she came in with a disease she caught from something outside the hospital before she even arrived in, and there was no request for termination.., " she told the radio programme.
There was more to come.
Savita's husband says he never claimed abortion would have saved his wife
Praveen Halappanavar has never claimed in any interview that a termination could have saved his wife's life, says the solicitor acting for Savita's husband.
Solicitor Gerard O'Donnell told the Irish Independent: "Mr Halappanavar has never claimed in any interview that a termination could have saved his wife's life."
Mr O'Donnell made his comments as questions continue to be raised following an interview where the journalist who first broke the story of Savita's death said that the facts may have been 'muddled'.
Abortion campaigners and the media rushed to say that an abortion would have saved Savita's life. They whip up a media hysteria that goes global. Irish doctors are accused of refusing to help Savita because of a 'Catholic ethos' in the hospital. ALL of these are shown to be false. But Ireland's reputation is destroyed by the fanaticism of abortion campaigners, who are cynically exploiting Savita's tragic death.
On Wednesday, November 13th, the Irish Times set the stage for an outbreak of global hysteria when they reported on the case under the sensationalist heading: Woman 'denied a termination' dies in hospital.
Reporter Kitty Holland wrote:
"…her husband Praveen Halappanavar says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.
"This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, ‘this is a Catholic country’. She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.
"The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.
"An autopsy carried out by Dr Grace Callagy two days later found she died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem” and E.coli ESBL.”
(Discrepancies in the reporting of these events are discussed below - as is the revelation that abortion campaigners had prior knowledge of the story and planned to use it to push for abortion in Ireland.)
The Irish Times knew what it was doing. While the facts were still unknown, it allowed the strong suggestion to be made that a combination of our abortion ban and some unspecified Catholic ethos had caused a young mother to die.
The rest of the media rushed to join the fray and to create the impression that Ireland was some backward, dogmatic, nation which left women to die in agony because of a fixation with protecting the unborn child.
The shrill hysteria that immediately arose was shocking, and was entirely without foundation. Abortion campaigners worldwide rushed to accuse Ireland’s pro-life laws of ‘murdering’ Savita and demanded that abortion be legalised.
The hysteria builds in hours, and truth is left far behind. 'Ireland Murders Pregnant Indian Dentist'. 'Savita dies because Irish are racist'. 'Irish bigotry kills woman'. 'Just F**king Legislate Already', are some of the lurid headlines and comments slamming Ireland.
Without knowing any of the medical facts, left-wing TDs and abortion campaigners began to condemn, to accuse, and to demand abortion legislation.
Left wing politician Mick Wallace said that Ms Halappanavar would most likely be still alive if she had chosen to live in any other European country.
Another, Clare Daly TD, said that “it would appear that this beautiful young woman is dead as a result only of political cowardice" and demanded that abortion be legalised.
Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party asked if there were other hospitals demanding “a young woman’s life to be criminally sacrificed for a Catholic so-called ethos". It was "a monstrous.....imposition on the Ireland of the 21st century", he said, as part of a tirade supporting abortion.
Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féín claimed that women were in "jeopardy".
The Labour Party eagerly led the calls for abortion legislation based on the X case – which would legalise abortion in Ireland through all nine months of pregnancy.
The Irish media gave abortion campaigners free rein to use this tragic death to demand that unborn babies be stripped of their right to life.
Within hours abortion advocates became ever more shrill and ever more hysterical.
Atheist Ireland founder, Michael Nugent, blogged that Savita died "in an Irish hospital because of Catholic dogma and political cowardice".
Pro-life people were threatened, abused, and accused of having 'blood on their hands' on internet forums and on abusive emails and phone calls.
Then the frenzy spiraled as the world's media began to join in and to manipulate the truth.
Britain's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, tweeted that "Irish Catholic bigotry kills woman".
The BBC reported that "Woman dies after abortion request 'refused' at Galway hospital."
One U.S. paper, the Madville Times, shrieked that "Ireland's Abortion Ban Tortures, Kills Miscarrying woman."
An Irish pro-life representative was asked on an Indian TV debate if Savita's death had been racially motivated.
And the website of the Times of India group, ran with the sensational headline "Ireland Murders Pregnant Indian Dentist".
The international media were in an unprecedented frenzy.
But the blame for that frenzy lay squarely with the Irish media and with Irish abortion campaigners.
Their behaviour was shameful. The facts were completely ignored in reckless and hysterical reportage.
All that mattered was raising hysteria so that abortion could be legalised. Savita's tragic death was being shamelessly exploited to foist abortion on Ireland.
This became so apparent that one Labour MEP, Phil Prendergast, who is also a midwife, spoke out to say that the situation was being 'cynically exploited'.
That cynical exploitation was shown to be planned in advance by abortion campaigners who had been tipped off regarding Savita's death and planned to use it to push for abortion.
Despite all the frenzied media reporting, there is no evidence that a 'Catholic ethos' interfered with the treatment required by Savita in Galway University Hospital. The Minister for Health has confirmed that no such evidence existed.
Claims that a 'Catholic ethos' negatively influenced the treatment undertaken for Ms Halappanavar have been denied by the Minister for Health James Reilly and by staff and users of the Galway University Hospital.
The Irish Times reported that “As the controversy around the death of Savita Halappanavar continued, sources close to the hospital stressed that not only was there “no particular ethos” at the hospital but it was very well resourced with a high level of specialist care.
“Medical sources similarly downplayed any suggestion of a particular religious ethos at the hospital.”
Most importantly, the Health Minister James Reilly, said that there was ‘no evidence’ that he was aware of that suggested that a ‘Catholic ethos’ had negatively influenced Savita’s treatment.
Yet the notion that a Catholic ethos caused a women to die became the flashpoint for an global outpouring of misplaced anger and ill-informed comment.
The India Times asked "Are Ireland's Catholic Abortion Laws responsible for Savita's death?"
The media outlet then accused the Irish Government of being "religious fundamentalists" over their delay in replacing the "draconian law that bans abortion".
Leaked emails show that abortion campaigners plotted to use Savita’s death to push for abortion in Ireland.
Secret email conversations between abortion campaigners were discovered by the Life Institute. They showed that the deplorable exploitation of Savita’s tragic death was planned and organised.
Those emails showed that the Irish Choice Network knew the story was going to break, days and perhaps weeks before details of Savita's death was published on November 14th. They had been tipped off that a controversy was about to arise, and they planned to use it to campaign for abortion.
The email told ICN members that “a major news story in relation to abortion access is going to break in the media early this coming week,” and they should meet to plan to use the case to ‘proceed’ with a push for abortion.
The Sunday Independent reported that among those who responded to that email was Alison Spillane – co-ordinator of the Irish Feminist Network and a political researcher in the Oireachtas, currently working in the Leinster House office of Deputy Mick Wallace.
Another member of the ICN Google discussion group who responded to the email was Stephanie Lord, a political advisor to Sinn Fein.
Until the results of the investigation are made known, no-one could say with certainty what led to Savita’s tragic death. But one thing was clear: Irish pro-life laws would not have prevented her from obtaining any treatment she needed to save her life.
The hysteria and frenzy surrounding this debate has been deplorable. Ireland's reputation has been systematically destroyed by abortion campaigners rushing to use Savita's tragic death to promote abortion.
Our superb maternal healthcare specialists, who have made Ireland one of the safest places in the world to be pregnant, have been attacked. Their professionalism and expertise have been called into question, unfairly and without evidence.
The deliberate attempt by abortion campaigners and by the media to state, without knowing the medical facts, that a Catholic ethos in the hospital combined with Ireland's ban on abortion allowed Savita to die, has caused enormous damage to this country's reputation and to the reputation of our excellent medical professionals.
It has also caused unnecessary fear amongst pregnant women in Ireland. At least one Obs/Gyn has stated that it has led to an unprecedented level of concern amongst his patients in regard to how they will be cared for in this country.
It has also led to the extraordinary situation where the media in India - a country whose maternal mortality rate is abysmal - feels it can lecture Ireland and demand her people legalise abortion,
The India Times wrote: "Isn't there a word for countries that base their laws on religion irrespective of common sense and the value of human life... what's the word: Fundamentalist? Taliban-esque? Third World?"
They also quoted Dr CVR Prasad, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Galway Clinic, who claimed that 'Ireland, termination is only postponed to after the birth'.
"Women have to deliver a live baby, even if it is deformed, severely handicapped or with a congenital disorder. The baby may survive for a few years. It's kept in paediatric hospitals where demand-feed happens which means the baby is fed only if it cries or asks for food. Many babies die of starvation. This is passive euthanasia," he says.
Dr Prasad added that Savita's case 'clearly reflects what happens when religion influences medical practice.'
This is utterly extraordinary. It is also absolutely untrue. Unless he has been misquoted, Dr Prasad has made dreadful allegations against his Irish colleagues.
It should be noted that India not only has a dreadful maternal death rate, it has, according to the Lancet, also aborted up to 6 million babies in the past decade simply because they were girls.
Perhaps in all the hysteria that dreadful trampling of women's rights should not be overlooked.
Savita’s tragic death was caused by E coli – and by a strain of E coli that is very resistant to antibiotics.
There are two inquiries underway in to the death of Savita Halappanavar - and it is to be hoped that they will reveal why this woman lost her life so tragically to septicaemia.
In the meantime we would do well to consider the words of Dr Jim Claire, a micro-biologist, on this issue.
As he wrote in the Examiner:
“Concerning the unfortunate death of Savita Halappanavar, I fear that the main problem is being missed.
The Irish media reported last week that this young woman most likely died from sepicaemia due to an ESBL E. coli strain.
ESBL, or Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase positive gram negative bacteria, are now spreading rapidly within the Irish population.
The significance of these organisms is in the fact that they are resistant to almost all available antibiotics.
We had a media frenzy over the last decade about MRSA but we had at least ten antibiotics capable of inhibiting this organism.
In contrast we have only a few antibiotics (if we are lucky) active against ESBL positive organisms, and these are third line antibiotics which must be used sparingly.
Deaths have already occurred due to these organisms and the potential for many more deaths is very real. ESBL positive organisms present a far greater threat than MRSA ever did or will.
I feel confident that the doctors in Galway would have followed accepted procedures for dealing with the clinical problems that emerged. When signs of infection first develop, doctors are usually forced to used antibiotics blindly, often with broad spectrum intravenous antibiotics.
The problem with ESBL organisms is that they are very resistant and thus a tragedy can result.
It appears to me that the problem was an unforeseen ESBL infection rather than an issue of obstetric mishandling.
In my experience of over 30 years with clinical antibiotic use, ESBL antibiotic resistance is by far the most worrying development that I have experienced.
The insult to the Irish medical service is added to by the suggestion that the Indian Embassy is upset with the lack of abortion services in Ireland.
This insult is further compounded by the fact the Indian subcontinent has played a major role in the spread of ESBL positive organisms.
If the Minister for Health wants to preserve lives, young and old he would do better to put a lot more resources into monitoring and controlling the spread of ESBL positive bacteria rather than responding to a pressure group who obviously have an ambition to turn our superb obstetricians into little more than paid killers. “
Links and Information
From Irish pro-life
- The tragic loss of Savita's life was not due to Ireland's ban on abortion
- Email leak reveals campaigners had prior knowledge
- Head of Savita HSE enquiry believes countries that restrict abortion laws should be challenged
- Kitty Holland says story might be 'muddled'
- Savita's husband says he never claimed abortion would have saved his wife's life
Infections in pregnancy
- Legal abortion is not the answer in Ireland deaths
- Savita's death may have been due to resistant bateria strain
- Letter from Dr. D Maguire, Glasgow, on infections in hospitals and treatments for same
- Parties divided on abortion issue
- Labour MEP slams exploitation of Savita Halappanavar's death
- Government must be the one to face facts: Eilis O'Hanlon in the Independent
- Tragedy of Savita's death must not be used as a witch hunt
- Staff at hospital mystified at tragedy
- Abortion debate on TV3 with William Binchy, Breda O'Brien, Derbhail McDonald, Ivana Bacik
- Marc Coleman interviews Kitty Holland on Newstalk 106
- Savita story possibly 'muddled' - reporter
- Reporter admits Savita may not have wanted an abortion
- Irish drop 3 doctors from probe into woman's death
- Savita inquiry doctor called for abortion legislation
- Head of Savita inquiry is president-elect of radical pro-abortion group
- Official HSE report - June 2013
News and blogs
- An Irish tragedy and India's double standards
- Savita's death reports one-sided : Catholic Forum
- Paper doesn't refuse ink : The Thirsty Gargoyle
- Ireland exports its problem : doctor accuses some Irish mothers of starving babies to death
- Praveen says he will fight to change Irish abortion laws
- Absurd to any Indian : Irish politicians cannot afford to dither any longer
- Doctors in Savita case insist "We did nothing wrong"
- Comment from London-Irish midwife
- Terminations of pregnancy are already carried out in Galway hospital
- 'Legalise aboriton now!' : The whole world is baying for the blood of Irish children
- No proof an abortion would have save Savita's life
- India tops in rates of maternal deaths worldwide
- Statement from Matercare International on management of second trimester septic inevitable miscarriage
- Is Ireland's abortion u-turn based on a mistake?
- Savita's tragic death could have been avoided