London: A 31-year-old Indian woman dentist died in Ireland from blood poisoning after doctors allegedly refused to terminate her 17-week-long pregnancy, telling her that "this is a Catholic country". Irish authorities have launched a probe into the death of Savita Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant when she suffered a miscarriage and septicaemia at University Hospital Galway in October, The Irish Times reported on Wednesday.
Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, said she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. Having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Savita 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".
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. "Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby. 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 foetal heartbeat we can't do anything'," her husband was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Despite her insistence that she was "neither Irish nor Catholic", the doctors refused to abort the foetus. An autopsy carried out two days later found she died of septicaemia "documented ante-mortem" and E.coli ESBL. A hospital spokesperson confirmed the Health Service Executive had begun an investigation while the hospital had also instigated an internal investigation.
Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland. The incident has reignited the debate over women's rights to abortion in the country. Ireland Prime Minister Enda Kenny himself said he was awaiting the findings of the probe into the death.