Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Update on inquest into Savita Halappanavar's death

The Irish Times has an article on the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar and the testimony of Dr. Katherine Astbury.  Astbury's testimony reveals that Halappanavar's death had much less to do with Ireland's abortion law and much more to do with mistakes made by hospital staff.

However, she did not look at the notes on her rounds and the decision to terminate was not made for another five hours, during which time Ms Halappanavar's health was deteriorating rapidly.

Dr Astbury agreed in evidence, given Ms Halappanavar's shivering early on the Wednesday morning, as reported yesterday by midwife Miriam Dunleavy, it was likely Ms Halappanavar's infection "was arising" at 4.30am. The inquest yesterday heard from Dr Ikechuckwu Uzockwu, that at 6.30am on Wednesday, Ms Halappanavar had a temperature of 39.6 degrees, an elevated pulse of 160bpm and a foul smelling discharge from her vagina. Dr Astbury agreed the foul-smelling discharge was "significant".

However, as another doctor had Ms Halappanavar's notes, she was not aware of this on her ward round at 8.20am......

Dr McLoughlin asked her about the wide variation in Ms Halappanavar's white cell count, of 16.9 on her admission on Sunday 21st and 1.6 when next checked on Wednesday 24th. A normal upper-limit white cell count in a second trimester woman, said Dr Astbury, was 14.8.

Asked to comment on the fact she had not been told by the doctor who was on-call on the Sunday but who was not a member of her medical team, of the elevated white cell count on admission, Dr Astbury said: "If I had known that I would have re-checked it [earlier than on Wednesday 24th]."         
This testimony paints a much different picture than the claims that Savita was dying and they wouldn't give her an abortion.  Astbury makes it clear that Savita was physically well when she requested an abortion.  The article also clarifies the context in which the "Catholic country" phrase was said (to help Halappanavar understand the abortion law and Irish culture) and by whom (a midwife).

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