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|Date||28 October 2012|
|Location||University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland|
|Cause||Septicemia and multiple organ failure|
|First reporter||Kitty Holland and Paul Cullen, The Irish Times|
The death of Savita Halappanavar on 28 October 2012, at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, led to nationwide protests—which spilled over into India, England and many other countries—calling for a review of the abortion laws in Ireland. Halappanavar, a Hindu of Indian origin, was suffering from a miscarriage when she was some 17 weeks pregnant, and she sought medical attention and treatment at University Hospital Galway. The hospital told them the foetus was not viable, but they could not perform an abortion under Irish Law as the foetus's heart was still beating. During the next several days, Halappanavar was diagnosed with septicemia which lead to multiple organ failure and her death.
Once the events became public, the news of Halappanavar's death spread rapidly and quickly through both traditional and social media outlets, with one of the original stories in The Irish Times on 14 November receiving over 700,000 hits by 17 November. Rallies and protests were held, calling for a change in the abortion laws in Ireland, which the protesters claimed led to Halappanavar's death. Indian diplomatic and consular officials requested an official inquiry into the events surrounding Halappanavar's death. The United Nations also became involved.
The incident is currently under investigation, and the Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), Enda Kenny, has stated: "I don't think we should say anything about this until we are in possession of all the facts." The Health Service Executive (HSE) named Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran to head a seven-member panel looking into the case. The panel will seek to uncover all the facts and "to identify any safety issues arising in this case".
Under Irish law, according to the Offences against the Person Act 1861, as amended, an unlawful act of abortion is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Following a ruling of the Supreme Court of Ireland in 1992—now known in Ireland as the X case—terminations are allowed under certain circumstances, where "a pregnant woman's life was at risk because of pregnancy, including the risk of suicide".
The court ruling has not been codified into law. Peter Boylan, of the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: "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."
Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old citizen of India, originally from Belgaum, in the Indian State of Karnataka, and who was working in Ireland as a dentist, died at University Hospital Galway. She was suffering from a miscarriage when she was some 17 weeks pregnant on 21 October. She repeatedly asked for an abortion, but was told that, because Ireland was a "Catholic country," she could not have one while the foetal heartbeat was still present, although it was non-viable. The foetal remains were removed several days later on 24 October. Savita Halappanavar suffered septicemia and organ failure and died a few days later on 28 October 2012.
Halappanavar's death led to protests at Galway, particularly from the local Indian expatriate community. The University Hospital is currently a subject of several investigations. Halappanavar had been one of the organisers of the annual Galway Diwali festival, which was cancelled in response to her death.
Reports about Halappanavar's death began spreading after the Tonight with Vincent Browne programme showed front-page stories by The Irish Times and the Irish Independent newspapers on 13 November 2012. The reports were further disseminated on Twitter, including by such journalists as Caitlin Moran and India Knight, and were covered by publications such as BBC News, the British edition of The Huffington Post, and The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, The Independent and the Daily Mail newspapers.
On 14 November 2012, more than 2,000 people gathered to protest against Ireland's abortion laws outside Leinster House in Dublin, in Halappanavar's memory. In addition, a candle-light vigil was held in Cork in Halappanavar's memory.
There were calls upon the Taoiseach to secure an external enquiry into the circumstances surrounding Halappanavar's death. There are also calls for a change in the law, as the present legislation is an Act of the British Parliament of 1861—when Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom—which declares that it is unlawful to "procure a miscarriage". On 16 November, the Irish Health Service Executive established an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Halappanavar's death.
On Saturday 17 November, the Garda Síochána (Ireland's national police) estimated that between ten and twelve thousand protesters marched from Parnell Square to Merrion Square to demand a change in the law, whilst other rallies were also held across Ireland and in many other countries abroad.
Medical terminations had previously been performed at the University Hospital when complications had arisen in pregnancy, as it is permitted by Irish law to save the life of the mother. In an opinion piece in the Daily Mail, Paul Bracchi speculated that an investigation would be carried out into why this did not occur in Halappanavar's case.
On Monday, 19 November, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland met in response to Halappanavar's death and released a statement that the Catholic Church believes in the "equal and inalienable right to life of a mother and her unborn child" and that the Church has never taught that the life of an unborn child takes precedence over the mother.
Eilis O'Hanlon stated that in its initial coverage, The Irish Times had "opted to present what had happened as a simple morality tale" and that "[t]he debate for the rest of the week was coloured entirely by The Irish Times's decision to reduce a complex personal tragedy, about which few facts were still known, to a rallying call." An analysis in The Irish Times on 17 November stated: "There is much we do not know about the medical care Savita Halappanavar received" and "even before the full facts are established Ms Halappanavar’s tragedy has generated much national and international coverage" in both traditional and social media of which some has been "careful and sympathetic" but "much ... has been intemperate, intolerant and politicised."
Response from the medical community 
The staff of University Hospital, as well as members of Ireland's HSE Regional Health Forum, have stated that there is no "Catholic ethos" that is impacting treatment provided.
Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology and a university master in the Rotunda Hospital, one of the biggest maternity hospitals in Ireland, said: "This case probably does not have a lot to do with abortion laws." He added that it would be preferable to introduce legislation to bring in clarity, saying, "We really do need legislation in this area, otherwise we're going to be at risk of doctors working outside the law, and that's not appropriate."
Dr Rhona Mahony, the Master of the National Maternity Hospital, said: "[I]t is very disappointing that, 20 years after the 'X-Case', we don't have legislation" and that women "need to know that they are going to get the appropriate health care that they need" while doctors "need to know that they are also protected in their ability to do their job."
Microbiologist Dr James Clair stated that the "main problem is being missed" in the case, suggesting that the real issue may be that the septicemia was caused by extended-spectrum beta-lactamase positive gram negative bacteria (ESBL), which "are now spreading rapidly within the Irish population" and are resistant to many known antibiotic treatments.
Political response 
The Minister for Health, James Reilly, said that the public must not pre-judge the situation and further said that he was awaiting the results of the investigations, adding he had no evidence to suggest a so-called "Catholic ethos" at the University Hospital that prevented Halappanavar's life from being saved by a medical termination. He has also stated that an inquiry into Halappanavar's death must stand up to international scrutiny.
Brian Walsh, a Fine Gael TD for Galway West, said that Galway University Hospital had carried out terminations in recent years in accordance with the judgement by the Supreme Court in the X case and with the guidelines of the Irish Medical Council. He said that the University Hospital was not run or managed by any [Catholic] religious orders and did not have a so-called "Catholic ethos".
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Halappanavar's death was tragic and harrowing. Martin said that Ireland had always aimed for a low death rate during pregnancy but that this was "cold comfort" to Halappanavar and her surviving family and relatives. He said that an independent inquiry was needed, with experts from outside the country to establish the full circumstances. He also responded on Saturday 17 November saying that "legislating for the X case would not have stopped [the death of Savita Halappanavar]". On 18 December 2012, after a panel of experts submitted its report to the Parliament recommending, "the government legislate the issue in order to clarify what the current laws actually do and do not permit", Ireland’s Minister of Health, James Reilly, made a public statement marking an impending shift in Government policy, "..we will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life.."
Response of pro-choice organisations 
Pro-choice campaigners state that Ireland's ban on abortion caused Halapannavar's death. Several rallies and vigils have been organised nationwide, calling for the government to legalise abortion based on Attorney General v. X. Irish Choice Network allegedly emailed members, calling for an emergency meeting to discuss how to proceed with this "major news story".
In response to critics accusing pro-choice activits of exploiting Halappanavar's death, Kate Smurthwaite responded in a column in the Huffington Post called "Yes, Savita Halappanavar's Death IS a Political Issue" in which she stated, "If I am ever a victim of an unjust legal discrepancy that infringes my human rights and leads to my untimely and unnecessary agonising death I want every man, woman and child on the streets immediately demanding that it never, ever be allowed to happen again."
Response of pro-life organisations 
The Life Institute in Ireland has accused what they call "abortion campaigners" of exploiting Halappanavar's death to further the pro-choice agenda.
Michael Kelly of The Catholic World Report rejects claims that Ireland's abortion laws led to Halappanavar's death, writing that "medical experts and bioethicists have been quick to express their view that Ireland's ban on abortion had nothing to do with Mrs. Halappanavar’s death. They insist that guidelines from the Irish Medical Council are perfectly clear that pregnant women must be given all necessary medical treatment."
Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International, said that there was no evidence to indicate that "a Catholic ethos" prevented responsible treatment of the mother, and called news reports that that was the case "demonizing the church's position on abortion". He described the debate resulting from the event as "activism masquerading as compassion and moral outrage."
International response 
In India, the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, summoned the Indian ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakravarti, to India for deliberations over the issue. Chakravarti later met Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and foreign minister, and promised to keep Halappanavar's husband up to date with the government's response.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent member of the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Parliament of India) said, "The death of Savita Halappanavar should be pursued by family and Govt. of India as a case of human rights violation and murder. Instead of simply protesting, cases should be filed against the Govt. of Ireland and its leadership at the International Court of justice and United Nations Commission for Human Rights UNHCR. This should move beyond protesting to where people are brought to account!"
In an editorial on 17 November 2012, The Times of India said, "There appears to be a tendency to view this issue in terms of India versus Ireland or the Catholic faith against other religions. To fall prey to such tendencies would be a serious mistake and a great disservice to the memory of Savita. ... Adding a nationalist or communal tone to the debate detracts from the merit of argument rather than enhancing it."
Amnesty International states that Halappanavar's death "illustrates [the] gap in Irish law" and asked the government of Ireland to change the law on abortion "in line with international human rights laws." The executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, Colm O'Gorman, said that "successive Irish Governments have failed in their duty to provide necessary clarity on how this right is protected and vindicated, leaving women in Ireland in a very vulnerable position."
Official inquiry 
On 19 November 2012, the Health Service Executive (HSE) named Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran to head a seven-member panel looking into the case. Arulkumaran is the head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's Hospital Medical School and is president-elect of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. The panel will seek to uncover all the facts and "to identify any safety issues arising in this case".
On 20 November 2012, three members of the panel were asked to step down when Praveen Halappanavar indicated that he would not cooperate with the panel due to their connections as consultants to University Hospital. Arulkumaran has requested a meeting with Mr. Halappanavar. On 21 November, the Irish Independent reported that Arulkumaran was being accused of being "pro-abortion" and promoting a "liberal" approach to abortion because of papers that he has published.
See also 
- McDonald, Henry; Quinn, Ben (Wednesday 14 November 2012). "Ireland abortion policy under scrutiny after woman's death". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2012. Text " World news " ignored (help); Text " The Guardian" ignored (help)
- Mullally, Una (17 November 2012). "Savita story resonates around the world". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 November 2012. More than one of
- Kennedy, Jason; Roche, Barry (14 November 2012). "Vigils and protests over Savita held". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- "Savita Halappanavar - Irish embassy protest over death". BBC News. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- TNN (16 November 2012). "Indian embassy waits for reports". The Times of India. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- Stack, Sarah. "United Nations watchdog expresses concerns following Savita death". Irish Independent.
- "Gynaecology expert to head Savita investigation team". Irish Examiner. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- "Enda Kenny wants 'all the facts' before Savita action -". ITV News. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Staff (19 November 2012). "HSE unveils membership of Halappanavar inquiry team". The Irish Times. pp. direct quote is from the video, at approx 1 min. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- "Miscarrying mother dies after Irish doctors refuse abortion, saying: 'This is a Catholic country'". Daily Mail. 14 November 2012.
- "Most TDs will back legislation on X Case". Irish Independent. 18 November 2012.
- Inquiry Sought in Death in Ireland After Abortion Was Denied By DOUGLAS DALBY, New York Times, 22 November 2012
- Holland, Kitty (15 November 2012). "People ask, 'how can this happen in the 21st century?'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- "Woman dies after abortion request 'refused' at Galway hospital". BBC News. 14 November 2012.
- Dalby, Douglas (April 11, 2013). "Religious Remark Confirmed in Irish Abortion Case". The New York Times.
- "Husband: Ireland hospital denied Savita Halappanavar life saving abortion because it is a "Catholic country"". CBS News (CBS News). 14 November 2012.
- "Indian woman dies after being refused abortion". Retrieved 2012-11-15.
- "Savita Halappanavar 'would still be alive if she had been treated in India'". The Guardian. 16 November 2012.
- Rudd, Andy (14 November 2012). "Savita Halappanavar: Husband claims pregnant wife would still be alive if doctors hadn't 'refused' her an abortion". The Mirror. More than one of
- "‘Over 2,000′ attend sit-down protest for Halappanavar at Leinster House". The Journal (TheJournal.ie). 14 November 2012.
- "HSE still finalising details of Savita Halappanavar inquiry". The Irish Times. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Thousands attend Savita vigils around the country". The Irish Times. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Gardaí assisting coroner in Savita Halappanavar case". The Irish Times. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012. More than one of
- "A pregnant wife's tragic death, a global outcry and the question: Was she really killed by draconian abortion laws?". Daily Mail. 17 November 2012.
- "Treatment that risks foetus can be 'ethically permissible' - Catholic bishops". RTÉ News.
- Eilis O'Hanlon: (18 Nov). "Eilis O'Hanlon: This Government must be the one to face facts". Irish Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Noel Whelan (17 November 2012). "Decisive change in the abortion debate". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- JOE HUMPHREYS (16 November 2012). "Catholic ethos suggestion dismissed". The Irish Times. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- "Rotunda head: No confusion". Irish Examiner. 15 November 2012.
- "We absolutely need legislation - Rotunda Master Dr Sam Coulter-Smith". RTÉ. 15 November 2012.
- "Maternity hospital chief: Women and doctors need protection". Irish Examiner. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
- "Dr James Clair". Mercy University Hospital, Cork, Ireland. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- Dr J Clair. "Savita’s death may have been due to resistant bacteria strain". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "Reilly: No evidence Catholic ethos prevented Savita's life from being saved". Irish Examiner. 14 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- "Video: Probe must stand up to international scrutiny - Reilly". Independent.ie. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Too soon to commit on abortion legislation, says Reilly". The Irish Times. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- Murphy, Cormac (15 November 2012). "Law on X Case would not have saved Savita, says Martin". Herald.ie. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Ireland’s Historic Abortion Shift and the Tragedy That Shadowed It". TIME. 19 December 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- "'Termination would have saved Savita' - heartbroken husband". The Independent. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- Reilly, Jerome (18 November 2012). "Pro-choice activists got tip-off on tragic death". The Independent. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- Kate Smurthwaite: (15 November 2012). "Yes, Savita Halappanavar's Death IS a Political Issue". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Kenny, Ciara (15 November 2012). "Lobby group accused of exploiting death". The Irish Times. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "After Tragedy, Irish Abortion Laws Come Under Fire". The Catholic World Report. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Boquet, Shenan J. (15 November 2012). "Human Life International Statement on the Death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland". Catholic Online. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- "Up to 70 people also protested outside the Irish embassy in Berlin tonight". The Irish Times. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Vigil for Savita and Protest at Ireland’s Abortion ban, Irish Embassy, Berlin". Midi Grrrl. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- "Last night in Brussels". Broadsheet.ie. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Savita death case: MEA summons Irish envoy after row over abortion, Updated". IBN Live (CNN-IBN, IBN Live). 16 November 2012.
- "Salman Khurshid closely following developments in Savita Halappanavar death case". The Times of India. 18 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- "State take up her cause: CM Shettar Says Humanity Should Precede Legality". The Times of India. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-23.
- "Savita's kin being consulted". The Times of India. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Press Trust of India (17 November 2012). "Irish Government must clarify on abortion issue: Amnesty". The Times of India. Retrieved 17 November 2012. More than one of
- "HSE announces Savita inquiry team replacements". Irish Times. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "Probe into Savita shambles goes from bad to worse". Irish Independent. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- Death of Savita Halappanavar collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Death of Savita collected news and commentary at The Irish Times
- Savita Halappanavar collected video, news and commentary at NDTV
- Savita Halappanavar collected news and commentary at The Times of India