The bereaved husband of the 31-year-old dentist who died in Ireland after doctors refused to terminate the fetus she was miscarrying says he has no doubt she would be alive if she had been allowed an abortion.
“What wrong did my daughter do,” asks Akkamahadevi whose daughter, Savita Halappanavar, died on a hospital bed in Ireland, begging to be saved, Bangalore Mirror reported.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, on October 21st, Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, was 17 weeks pregnant with her first baby, when she started experiencing back pain. She and her husband Praveen Halappanavar ,34, went to the hospital.
Praveen, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, said doctors at University Hospital Galway determined that she was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization.
“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the fetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.
“Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby,” he told The Irish Times in a telephone interview from Belgaum, southwest India.
He said Savita had been "on top of the world" before experiencing difficulties.
"It was her first baby, first pregnancy and you know she was on top of the world basically," he said.
"She was so happy and everything was going well, she was so excited.
Last days spent in agonizing pain
Praveen said that over the next three days doctors refused their requests for a termination of her fetus to combat her own surging pain and fading health.
“When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked: ‘If they could not save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy?’ The consultant said: ‘As long as there is a fetal heartbeat, we can’t do anything.’”
Again on Tuesday morning, she continued to experience pain and asked a consultant if she could be induced.
"They said unfortunately she can't because it's a Catholic country," Praveen recalled.
"Savita said to her she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her."
"But she said 'I'm sorry, unfortunately it's a Catholic country' and it's the law that they can't abort when the fetus is live."
He said that evening his wife developed the shakes and shivers and started vomiting repeatedly.
"She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics that night," he said.
But doctors wouldn’t terminate the fetus because its heart was still beating, CBS News says.
The next morning, seeing his wife so sick, he "asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”
The baby's heart stopped
At lunchtime Wednesday, the baby's heart stopped. The dead fetus remains were surgically removed.was already talking about when
Before the procedure she had already begun talking about getting pregnant again, he said.
Later that day, things go wrong.
"I got a call at about half twelve on the Wednesday night that Savita's heart rate had really gone up and that they had moved her to ICU," Praveen said.
"Things just kept on getting worse and on Friday they told me that she was critically ill."
Within hours, Praveen said, his wife was placed under sedation in intensive care with systemic blood poisoning and he was never able to speak with her again.
By Saturday her heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working. "That night, we lost her,”Praveen said
She was pronounced dead early Sunday, Oct. 28.
An autopsy carried out two days after her death found she had died from septicemia, according to the Irish Times.
Ireland’s constitution bans abortion
The 31-year-old’s case highlights the bizarre legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems in predominantly Catholic Ireland can find themselves.
Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found it should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy.
Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.
University Hospital Galway in western Ireland declined to say whether doctors believed Halappanavar’s blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than wait for the fetus to die on its own.
When asked by the BBC if he thought his wife would still be alive if the termination had been allowed, Praveen said: "Of course, no doubt about it."
“I was with her those four days in intensive care. Every time they kept telling me: ‘She’s young. She’ll get over it’. But things never changed, they only got worse. She was so full of life. She loved kids.
“It was all in their hands and they just let her go. How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway? Savita could have had more babies.”
“I am talking about this because it shouldn’t happen to anyone else. It’s very hard. It has been a terrible few weeks, very hard to understand how this can happen in the 21st century, very hard to explain to her family."
In a statement it described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the national government’s Health Service Executive, as “standard practice” whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital. The Galway coroner also planned a public inquest.
Asked if the Irish government would carry out an external inquiry into the death, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said: "It would be very appropriate that we don't rule anything out here, but there are two reports and investigations going on at the moment."
Pro-life group responds
The group Precious Life, which campaigns against abortion, said its thoughts and prayers were with Halappanavar's family. Savita's parents live in India. She was their only daughter.
In a statement, it said it hoped the investigations would "shed full light" on what had happened.
"Ireland's laws protecting unborn babies do not pose a threat to women's lives, according to the obstetricians and gynecologists who care for women every day," they said.
Savita's mother does not agree.
“She begged the doctors to save her, pleaded with them to go ahead with the abortion as it was crucial at the moment…but they just would not listen as the rules in Catholic-majority Ireland do not permit for abortion. She did not die, she was killed,” Akkamahadevi told Bangalore Mirror.
“If it had happened in the UK or India, the whole thing would have been over in a few hours. We just pray now, wherever she is, she is happy.”
News of the circumstances that led to her death emerged Tuesday in Galway after the Indian community canceled the city’s annual Diwali festival. Savita had been one of the festival’s main organizers.
Praveen said he took his wife’s body home on Thursday, November 1st, where she was cremated and laid to rest on November 3rd.
“I still can’t believe she’s gone,” Praveen said.