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Nov 16, 2012 at 02:21pm IST

Activists say blame doctors, not religion for Indian woman's death in Ireland

New Delhi: The tragic death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar's in Ireland sparked an outrage and brought the debate on the abortion laws to the fore front. Activists say medical negligence and not the Catholic Church should be blamed for Savita's death. The Indian ambassador in Dublin is expected to meet Irish authorities on Friday to discuss the case directly. However, India won't conduct an independent probe of its own.

There were protests outside the Irish Parliament on Thursday as leaders discussed abortion laws for the second day in a row. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said there was a need to bring legal clarity to the matter.

ALSO SEE Government to take up Indian woman's death with Ireland as outrage against abortion laws continue

Activist John Dayal, while speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, called the incident "a gross error on the part of the doctor". He added, "His prognosis was faulty as is obvious in the death of Savita. When you think that the life of mother is at risk, then the doctor has to make a choice, which life can be saved and he saves the mother. That is the norm, that is the catholic teaching. Abortions on demand is not the Catholic teaching."

Calling it a case of medical negligence, Gynecologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital Dr G Chadha said, "I would say doctors are negligent, because their hands are tied and they are taking refuge under the garb of saying it is anti law. I mean., its completely inexcusable that an Indian lady dies overseas because of these religious beliefs. You are welcome to your religion, but please don't play with human lives."

ALSO SEE Ireland: Indian woman's death sparks public, political anger

Grief stricken parents of Savita have demanded amendment of Irish abortion laws to prevent such incidents. Andaneppa Yalagi and Mahadevi Yalagi, parents of 31-year old Savita, who have been passing through the trauma of the sudden loss of their daughter, also appealed to the Indian Government to prevail upon Ireland to amend the Irish law banning abortions. "The Irish law on abortion should be amended to prevent incidents such as my daughter's death from occurring in future," they said.

Political parties termed the incident it as a violation of human rights while Savita's parents demanded an international probe. The Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said the mother's life should not have been risked though abortion was a complete no for them.

Activists protested on Thursday night in Belfast a day after thousands rallied in London, Dublin, Cork and Galway in memory of Savita. Irish gynecologists on Thursday demanded that the government close a 20-year-old hole in the country's abortion law that leaves them fearing prosecution if they abort a fetus to protect a woman's life.

"We would like to be able to practice medicine in a safe environment legally. The current situation is like a sword of Damocles hanging over us. If we do something with a good intention, but it turns out to be illegal, the consequences are extremely serious for medical practitioners," Dr Peter Boylan of the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said.

In parliament, hours after 2,000 citizens outside the gates held a candlelit vigil demanding reforms in Ireland's prohibitive abortion laws, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore said the government would act "to bring legal clarity to this issue as quickly as possible."

Expressing concern over the death of Savita after doctors in a hospital there refused to terminate her pregnancy, the BJP has asked the Indian government to take up the issue with the Ireland authorities and provide justice to her family. BJP Mahila Morcha Chief Smriti Irani wrote a letter to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid demanding the government of India take action on the matter.

"I am of the belief that no religion permits the murder of an innocent woman. The hospital knowingly endangered the life of young Savita (Halappanavar). It is shocking that the doctors chose to let their religious beliefs over-ride the Hippocratic Oath (oath of obligations of proper conduct doctors take before starting practice)", Irani said in her letter.

31-year-old Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, was found to be miscarrying and wanted an abortion. But the doctors declined saying theirs is a Catholic country and they cannot abort a foetus. The BJP pointed out that Savita was neither a Catholic nor an Irish. "Sir, I demand that the government of India takes a serious note of the human rights violation of Savita Halappanavar and provide speedy justice to her family after engaging with the Irish government," Irani said in the letter to Khurshid.

Savita's father said if hospital authorities had heeded to his daughter's request to terminate the pregnancy she would have survived. He claimed Savita's kidney and liver was damaged due to inadequate care taken by hospital authorities. Andaneppa said having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Savita asked for a medical termination. This was refused, he said, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and my relatives were told (by doctors) "this is a Catholic country". Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland.

The dead foetus was later removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on October 28. An autopsy carried out two days later found she died of septicaemia "documented ante-mortem" and E.coli ESBL. Irish authorities have launched a probe into the death of Savita.

With Additional Inputs from PTI

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