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Savita’s death is a tragedy - shouting and debating over the loss of beautiful life

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Savita Halappanavar
I was on the Al Jazeera channel on Monday discussing the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland.

I was struck by how, in all the shouting and debating, the soul and spirit of the young Indian woman has been lost already.

Savita died in a Galway hospital after doctors refused her request for an abortion on her fetus who they agreed was not going to live. They allegedly told her that because Ireland was a “Catholic country” she would have to wait for the heartbeat to cease.

She spent three days in terrible agony, then contracted septic shock and died.

On the show I was on the usual sides were in opposition -- those who blamed the lack of an abortion on her dying fetus as the reason why she died, and the pro-life gurus claiming that she would have died anyway from septic shock. I was there to give the American reaction.

Few referred to the fact that the death of Savita, the 31-year-old beautiful Indian woman who worked as a dentist in Ireland, is firstly an unbelievable personal tragedy.

Amidst all the recrimination and argument as to how and why she died, it appears to me the human story has been lost.

Al Jazeera played a captivating video of Savita showing off her Indian dance moves. She had the looks of a Bollywood film star and the moves of a natural dancer.

In real life this wonderful and warm Indian professional was an emigrant to Ireland, worked as a dentist in Westport, Co. Mayo and was beloved in her community. Her husband worked in Galway at an American multinational there.

She led the way teaching Indian dance to local Mayo youngsters, and was arranging the events connected with her local Indian festival when she became ill.

In the early weeks of her pregnancy her husband’s family visited, thrilled to bits at the new grandchild. One can only imagine the happy occasion, especially in a culture that adores children.

The parents were hardly back in India, however, when the complications began.

At 17 weeks pregnant, Savita was rushed to Galway Hospital with complications. We all know most of what happened next.

But what stands out in my mind is that when she asked for a termination of a fetus that could not be saved, she was told “no” and that “this is a Catholic country.”

If that is true, what kind of ignorance fueled that type of response? The woman was in excruciating pain and her doctors refused to act.

So this lovely young woman sent three days in absolute agony, a fact not disputed by anyone in this case, while doctors fulfilled some magical religious custom.

And she died and left a heartbroken husband and family behind her. Not only has her husband Praveen lost his wife but also his new baby who no doubt he was thrilled to await.

Hopefully others will not lose sight of the wonderful human life that has been lost.

Savita has now become another statistic that will fuel the incendiary abortion debate. There is no issue I know of more strongly argued and more vehemently than the issue of abortion.

Alas, Savita now becomes part of that ongoing global battle. Her story appeared on Page 3 of The New York Times this week and has sparked worldwide coverage.

But we should never forget her to be a wonderful professional woman, a wife and someone beloved by her family.

That is the real tragedy here.

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