The Tragic Death of Savita Halappanavar UPDATED

The Tragic Death of Savita Halappanavar UPDATED November 15, 2012

The news of the tragic passing of Savita Halappanavar is burning up the wires and stirring hate and discontent among folks both in Ireland and elsewhere.

I suggest we pause and say a prayer for her and her family as they sort through their loss. This is not the time to be playing armchair surgeon, nor is it time to grab pitchforks and torches and come after the Catholic Church either. The Halappanavar family has enough grief to sort through without us turning them into political footballs and kicking them hither and yon.

Human Life International has put out a press release which makes a lot of sense to me.

“The staff and pro-life missionaries of Human Life International join those mourning the death of Savita. We pray that God have mercy on her soul and that He will bring peace and healing to her family and friends who have lost a loved one.

“But we categorically reject the pro-abortion activist and media effort to use her death for their own cause when very few facts are known about the decisions regarding her treatment. We join Irish Health Minister James Reilly in appealing for people to await the outcome of investigations by the coroner, the Hospital and Health Service Executive. And it needs to be pointed out that according to Mr. Reilly, there is no evidence that a Catholic ethos prevented responsible treatment of Savita despite some news reports demonizing the Catholic Church’s position on abortion as the sole reason for Savita’s tragic death.

“The Church’s position in these difficult cases is always to save both patients – both mother and child. The description of the hospital’s response to Savita’s condition sounds, at best, incomplete, and at worst, a complete misrepresentation of the response of a hospital that has an exemplary record for maternal health.

“We must also ask why it is not time for a national conversation about abortion when a woman dies from having an abortion. In the U.S., it is well known that a young woman named Tonya Reaves died this past July from a botched abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood, yet somehow her death did not merit international attention and condemnation despite reports of staggering negligence on the part of Planned Parenthood leading to her death. And yet we are led to believe with this deluge of press surrounding the death of Savita, and with obviously incomplete information, that a Catholic hospital maliciously caused the death of a young mother by not treating her.

“This is activism masquerading as compassion and moral outrage. Let us find out what the hospital actually offered for treatment, how things actually proceeded, then let’s make our judgment as to the cause of this tragic death. But if we are actually concerned about women’s health, we must be just as outraged by those many women harmed or killed every week through legal and illegal abortion around the world. Until then, with the Catholic Church, we insist that medical professionals do everything they can to save both mother and child in these difficult situations. Abortion always takes one life and harms another. It saves no one, and it divides communities and nations, as we see again in this tragic episode.”

For those not sure of what the Catholic Church says on cases like these, The Anchoress reminds us of the facts.

On to the abortion part of the story, which is being seized upon and exploited by the usual suspects in a predictable attempt to indict the church’s teaching on the subject. We read that Savita and her husband were told they could not induce Savita’s labor because “this is a Catholic country.”

To which only two words can be said: Hogwash and Hogwash.

… if, for example, the saving of the life of the future mother, independently of her pregnant condition, should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired nor intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions – granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies.”

Even if you are not well-versed on Catholic teaching, as apparently whoever spoke to the Halappanavars was not, just thinking this one through — if people do that, anymore — should have answered the question. Inducing the delivery of a baby at 17 weeks would likely insure its death (I believe the earliest gestation stage to survive is about 21 weeks) but unlike a dilation and curettage, which destroys the baby in utero (and which would not have been performed at 17 weeks, regardless) an induced delivery still allowed for the longshot of a live delivery — it still would allow for God’s determining hand in this life.

Read it all.

Father Dwight has some thoughts and links to share as well.

This terrible death was not caused by anti-abortion legislation in Ireland. The law there allows for abortion to save the life of the mother. This woman died as a result of medical incompetence and not following the already established medical guidelines in Ireland. They could have taken procedures to save the mother’s life which were within the law and also (for those who are interested in the subtleties of moral theology) did not contravene Catholic moral teaching. For a full explanation read my friend William Oddie here. Tim Stanley also clarifies the issue here.

The BBC reports that investigators have been appointed to determine what happened.

University Hospital Galway will also carry out an internal investigation. It said it could not comment on individual cases but would be cooperating fully with the coroner’s inquest into Ms Halappanavar’s death.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Galway Roscommon University Hospitals Group extended its sympathy to the husband, family and friends of Ms Halappanavar.

Dr Muiris Houston, health analyst for The Irish Times newspaper, said that all of the circumstances surrounding the incident had not been revealed yet.

He described it as a “rare situation”.

The Indian ambassador to Ireland, Debashish Chakravarti, said his embassy was monitoring developments.

“We deeply regret that this lady died in the circumstances that she did and, of course, the death of any Indian national is a source of concern to us, I suppose,” he said.

“Steps should be taken so that it doesn’t happen to any other Indian citizen.”

Abortion is illegal in the Republic except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother.

In January, the Irish government established a 14-member expert group to make recommendations based on a 2010 European Court of Human Rights judgment that the state failed to implement existing rights to lawful abortion where a mother’s life was at risk.

I have a feeling a hospital in Galway is fixin’ to get sued, and rightfully so.

Please pray for all, especially the family, involved in this tragic and seemingly senseless loss. Lord, have mercy.


Ireland’s Abortion Laws: we need to get the facts straight.

Savita’s Death and Common Sense.

The Scandalous Abortion of Savita Halappanavar (*strong language).

Maternal mortality in countries around the world.

Medical Malpractice and Treating Tragedies as Political Footballs

Deacon Greg Kandra.

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