The consultant who oversaw the medical care of Savita Halappanavar, who died in a Galway hospital after a miscarriage, has admitted there were shortcomings in her care.
A dentist born in India, Savita was 17-weeks pregnant when she was admitted to a Galway hospital on October 2. She delivered a dead baby daughter three days later and was rushed to intensive care within hours of the delivery, where she remained in a critical condition. She died a week later of a heart attack caused by septicaemia due to E coli.
A senior obstetrician, Dr Katherine Astbury, told the inquest she was unaware of Savita’s blood test abnormalities. She said her vitals should have been checked more regularly after her foetal membrane ruptured.
When Dr Astbury was asked by Galway coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin if these two aspects of the patient’s care could be seen as system failures, she replied yes.
Dr Astbury refused to terminate the pregnancy two days after Savita was admitted as she said there was no risk to her life.
“She was well,” said Dr Astbur. “There was no risk to her life.”
“If you need to give somebody medication to deliver and there’s a foetal heartbeat my understanding is that legally you are considered to be terminating.”
Dr Astbury was asked by barrister Eugene Gleeson, senior counsel for the Halappanavar family, about the remark that a termination could not be carried out because Ireland is a “Catholic country.'.
“No, I did not mention religion,” she said.
“I did say I cannot terminate in this country because the foetus is still alive.”
On Wednesday the inquest heard from a Galway midwife who told Savita that she could not abort her terminally ill fetus because Ireland was a Catholic country. Ann Maria Burke apologized for her comments.
“It came out the wrong way and I'm sorry," she said.
Savita’s widow Praveen Halappanavar, who is attending the inquest in Galway, expressed gratitude to the midwife for her honesty.
" I would like to thank her for being so honest. I think it came out of the blue," said the 34-year-old engineer.
The inquest began on Monday and is expected to last at least another week.