A leading hospital consultant doctor has denied she ever told the husband of Savita Halappanavar that Ireland was a Catholic country and his wife could not terminate her pregnancy despite the fact that the baby was not viable.

Dr Katherine Astbury was named in court at the inquest as the doctor who allegedly told the Indian family resident in Mayo that a termination was impossible because of Ireland being a Catholic country.

Desperately ill Savita died of sepsis after her womb became infected.

Praveen Halappanavar told the inquest: "Savita asked for a termination two times. She asked a doctor when she could plan the next pregnancy. She was told she had to get well first."

But a lawyer for Astbury said the doctor will "categorically deny" ever making any reference to Ireland "being a Catholic country."

There were emotional scenes as Praveen broke down during his testimony.

His wife Savita was 17 weeks pregnant when she began miscarrying.

She was admitted to University Hospital Galway on October 21 last year but died a week later.

Praveen stated that at one point Savita pleaded: "How can a mother wait for her baby to die?"

"She basically said she can't take it," Praveen said.

"She wanted a termination, she wanted it before her parents(who had been visiting)  arrived back in India and started telling people she was pregnant," said Praveen.

Astbury’s lawyer said she would say that, "The pregnancy could continue for several weeks. I recall informing her (Savita) the legal position in Ireland did not permit me to terminate her pregnancy at that time."

When told of the imminent miscarriage, "Savita was crying loudly," Praveen said.

He said a doctor told him: "You have to be brave."

He said Savita asked him: "Why did this happen to me?"

He added: "She held my hand and said, 'Sorry, I want to be a good wife'."

The hearing continues.

Savita Halappanavar died having been admitted to hospital in the middle of a miscarriage. It is claimed she was denied an abortion. She died of blood poisoning after the baby had died.Google Images