Remembering Savita Halapannavar
The Catholic Church commemorates the dead throughout the month of November. As the prayer reads, “Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. ” It is an apt time to recall the sad passing of those who have gone before, including 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar. A week ago marked the fifth anniversary of her death.
For those who may not recall, pro-abortion activists widely blamed her death on Ireland’s pro-life policies. In the process of miscarriage, she entered the hospital requesting an abortion, but was denied because she did not have sepsis and the baby still had a heartbeat. She requested an abortion, which was denied by her Catholic hospital as the baby still had a heartbeat. She was turned down because her request at the time was not “medically warranted.” Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute stated at the time: “Abortion doesn’t cure septicaemia and isn’t a treatment for miscarriage.” Ultimately, Savita developed sepsis and did die, but the reason was not lack of access to abortion. The Irish government conducted its investigation and found failures in basic patient care on multiple levels.
Correcting the Record
The Irish government’s inquiry labeled Savita’s death “failure in the provision of the most basic elements of patient care. It identified failure to recognize she was developing an infection, then a failure to act upon her clinical deterioration in a timely and appropriate manner. The investigation also identified multiple missed opportunities to intervene in her care which, if they had been acted upon, may have resulted in a different outcome for Savita Halappanavar.”
Among the causes detailed by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA):
- Savita went hours without even having her vital signs checked.
- There were multiple failures of communication between staff levels regarding her condition. (E.G. blood tests showing infection were not followed up.)
- Labor ward critical care is to be staffed both by consultant obstetric staff with 24-hours seven-days-a-week senior midwifery cover. Consultants meant to be on call during Savita’s incident were engaged “elsewhere” in other clinical activities… so there were no guidelines to ensure she or others were seen by a senior clinical decision maker in a timely manner.
- Patient healthcare records were improperly kept, with some of Savita’s notes entered two weeks after her death.
- Clinic staff did not even have training in how to treat maternal sepsis.
Praying for Savita Halappanavar and Child
At the time of her death. Human Life International President, Father Shenan J. Boquet, issued the following statement: “The staff and pro-life missionaries of HLI join those mourning the death of Savita. We pray that God have mercy on her soul and that He will bring peace and healing to her family and friends who have lost a loved one. But we categorically reject the pro-abortion activist and media effort to use her death for their own cause. The Church’s position in these difficult cases is always to save both patients – both mother and child.”
In the light of hindsight, five years back Father Boquet wisely cautioned against jumping to conclusions:
This is activism masquerading as compassion and moral outrage. Let us find out [how] the hospital actually … proceeded, then let’s make our judgment as to the cause of this tragic death. But if we are actually concerned about women’s health, we must be just as outraged by those many women harmed or killed every week through legal and illegal abortion around the world. Until then, with the Catholic Church, we insist that medical professionals do everything they can to save both mother and child in these difficult situations. Abortion always takes one life and harms another. It saves no one, and it divides communities and nations, as we see again in this tragic episode.
In the interest of correcting the record, October 16th marked the Feast Day of St. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of women in childbirth and the unborn. Let us ask his intercession for improved maternity care for mothers and their children. And during the month of November, let us also pray for Savita Halappanavar and her unborn child.