An inquiry into the death of an Indian woman who was refused a potentially life-saving abortion by an Irish hospital has been thrown into disarray, after health chiefs were forced into a u-turn over its terms.
The investigation, which launched on Monday, is to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar – who died from blood poisoning one week after suffering a miscarriage and being denied an abortion.
Health chiefs removed three senior consultants appointed to take part in the inquiry following complaints from Mrs Halappanavar’s widower – who objected to the inclusion of the doctors from the hospital where his wife died.
Praveen Halappanavar said he was not willing to cooperate with the probe being carried out by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) on the grounds that it would not be fully independent. His lawyer Gerard O’Donnell said his client would not testify to the probe or authorise it to view his wife’s medical records, a potentially crippling blow to its work.
Speaking to parliament, Ireland’s prime minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced Health Minister Dr James Reilly had pulled the Galway University Hospital employees from the panel to ensure the investigation would be completely independent. The doctors – Professor John Morrison, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, Brian Harte, consultant in anaesthetics, and Catherine Fleming, consultant in infectious diseases – had no part in the care of Mrs Halappanavar.
“The three doctors will not be part of the investigation and therefore different personnel who are competent, who are experienced and who have no connection to Galway University Hospital will be appointed to conduct the investigation,” said Mr Kenny.
Meanwhile, opposition party Sinn Fein was due to table a motion in Ireland’s Dail parliament last night calling for an immediate change to abortion laws.
It will urge the Government to legislate on the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X Case - allowing women an abortion when their lives are in danger.
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