The Coroner for Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, pronounced a verdict of death by medical misadventure, following the death of Savita Hallappanavar in October 2012.
Mrs Hallappanavar died four days after suffering a miscarriage. Her family hold the view that if she had been allowed to have an abortion then she may have survived. The case came into the media spotlight last year after Savita’s death, with campaigners using the story to demonstrate the need for a radical overhaul of Ireland’s abortion laws.
Mr Praveen Hallappanavar claimed that his wife was inhumanely treated by the hospital in question. Savita was admitted to hospital when she was seventeen weeks pregnant with their first child. Praveen claimed that he had begged hospital staff to perform an emergency termination, in the hope that this would save his wife’s life.
The jury reached a unanimous decision after hearing evidence, that the cause of death was septic shock and E coli. The hospital, Galway Roscommon Hospital Group, admitted that there had been failings in the standard of care awarded to Mrs Hallappanavar. However, the Coroner did state that the verdict did not imply individual failings within the hospital itself.
At the inquest, the Coroner put forward nine recommendations following the tragic death, all of which were agreed by the jury. The hope is that these recommendations will alleviate any doubt from professionals and reassure the public.
One key recommendation was for the Irish Medical Council to draw up guidelines to assist healthcare professionals about when to intervene in cases where there is an expectant mother. Whilst guidance about how to measure this level of risk is a step in the right direction, right to abortion campaigners are likely to argue that it is not enough; and changes to the law are still required to prevent any similar deaths occurring in the future.
Further recommendations focused on the need for protocols centred on the management of sepsis. In addition there was an emphasis on communication. The Coroner mentioned that there should be an increase in communication between staff members especially when new staff are coming on duty. Communication also applies to the families of patients, in that they should be updated as to the current treatment plan.
It is hoped that despite their tragic loss, the family of Savita Hallappanavar obtained some answers from the inquest into her death.