Skip to main content

Woman's death in Ireland abortion case ruled 'medical misadventure'

By Peter Taggart and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 1:04 PM EDT, Fri April 19, 2013
Protest during a march against Government austerity measures in Dublin, Ireland on November 24, 2012.
Protest during a march against Government austerity measures in Dublin, Ireland on November 24, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Inquest jury in Galway returns verdict of death by medical misadventure
  • Savita Halappanavar, 31, died last October after suffering a miscarriage
  • Coroner offers Ireland's "deepest sympathy" to Savita's widower, Praveen
  • He says his wife's treatment in hospital was "horrendous, barbaric and inhuman"

(CNN) -- The death of an Indian dentist who died after a miscarriage in an Irish hospital was the result of medical misadventure, an inquest jury ruled Friday.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, was 17 weeks pregnant when she died in October at University Hospital Galway.

The inquest jury heard seven days of evidence from staff and expert witnesses, as well as her widower, Praveen Halappanavar.

A pathologist, Professor Grace Callagy, told the inquest the cause of death was septic shock, E. Coli in Savita Halappanavar's bloodstream and a miscarriage.

Ireland amends abortion law
Death leads to abortion rally in Ireland

In his evidence, a leading obstetrician said Halappanavar's life could have been saved had a termination been carried out a day or two before her miscarriage.

However, Dr. Peter Boylan admitted it would not have been practical under Irish law, which states there has to be a real and substantial risk to the mother's life.

The coroner, Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin, on Friday directed jurors at Galway Coroner's Court to consider carefully the verdict and his recommendations, including that Ireland's Medical Council should lay out exactly when doctors can intervene to save the life of a mother.

The jury unanimously returned the misadventure verdict and "strongly endorsed" his recommendations.

MacLoughlin told the dentist's husband: "The whole of Ireland has followed your story and I want, on their behalf, to offer our deepest sympathy."

Outside the court, Praveen Halappanavar said he still had not got all the answers but would "get to the bottom of the truth."

Somebody has to take responsibility for his wife's death, he said.

He told reporters that the way Savita had been treated in the hospital was "horrendous, barbaric and inhuman."

Friday was particularly poignant as it would have been the couple's fifth wedding anniversary, he added.

In his evidence last week, Praveen Halappananvar said that he had been told an abortion could not be done while the fetus was still alive because Ireland is a Catholic country.

The couple were married in India before moving to Ireland, where they had lived for four years before Savita's death.

'System failures'

Giving evidence last week, consultant Dr. Katherine Astbury, who treated Halappanavar, denied saying an abortion could not be carried out "because Ireland is a Catholic country."

But she acknowledged that she felt constrained by Irish law, which does not permit a termination even if there is no prospect of the fetus surviving.

Astbury also admitted that there were "system failures" in Halappanavar's care. For example, Astbury had not been made aware of blood test abnormalities and an infection, she said.

A midwife at Galway hospital, Ann Maria Burke, apologized in her evidence for telling Halappanavar a termination would not be possible "because Ireland is a Catholic country." She said the comment was not meant to be hurtful.

Halappanavar went into the hospital on October 21, complaining of back pain. Three days after the request for a termination was made, the fetus died and was removed. Four days later, Savita died of a blood infection.

An inquest by a coroner is standard procedure in cases of sudden, unexplained or unnatural deaths in Ireland.

READ MORE: Husband testifies his wife died after abortion was denied in Ireland

READ MORE: If Ireland had abortion rights

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT