Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Needless Death of Savita Halappanavar

   She loved kids.
   This is going to be a hard story for me to write. Every time I think about I get so sad, and mad,  I start to cry.
   Savita Halappanavar had trained as a dentist in India and passed the Irish Dental Council exams last year. She and her husband, Praveen, settled in the Roscam area of Galway, Ireland.  He works as an engineer with Boston Scientific and she had a dental job in Westport, County  Mayo.
   "She loved kids," said Praveen. The couple had come to Ireland in 2008. Savita was 31 years old.
   "She would gather Indian and Irish children together to teach them Indian dances. She had a diamond in one of her front teeth and all the children would ask, 'Oooh, where did you get that?' and she'd tell them, 'Aha, you will have to go to India to get that'."
   She also had a leading role in organizing the annual five-day “Diwali” festival for Galway’s Indian community, choreographing the dancing. Praveen would organize the music and the couple would dance together on stage.
   "They were so attached to each other and a lovely couple," said Dr CVR Prasad, a friend and colleague. "She finished up her job in Westport when she learned of her pregnancy and invited her parents to visit them from India." Savita was their only daughter.
    "I still can’t believe she’s gone,” said Praveen. "She was so full of life."
   Savita was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to the University Hospital Galway on Oct. 21st, complaining of severe back pain. She was informed by hospital physicians that she was having a miscarriage and that her fetus had no chance of survival. Accepting the horrible fact that her baby would not survive she pleaded for an abortion because of the pain she was in. She was told that procedure was illegal until the fetus's heart stopped beating.
   Praveen recounts: "The consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita [a Hindu] said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do. That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics. The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn't."
   On Oct 24th the heartbeat of the fetus finally stopped and was surgically removed. But it was too late. By then Savita had contracted a disease called septicemia, a bacterial blood disease, sometimes called blood poisoning. She was admitted to intensive care, but she never recovered.
   Savita died on Oct 28th, and her story flew around the world.
   A Catholic country. I'm Irish, or at least my ancestors came from Ireland. This is the first time I've ever been ashamed of that.
   There is an almost total ban on abortions in Ireland. However, they are permitted if the mother's life is in danger. So what happened?
   Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, blogged this:
   "As Ms. Halappanavar died of an infection, one that would have been brewing for several days if not longer, the fact that a termination was delayed for any reason is malpractice. Infection must always be suspected whenever, preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes, or advanced premature cervical dilation occurs (one of the scenarios that would have brought Ms. Halappanavar to the hospital).
As there is no medically acceptable scenario at 17 weeks where a woman is miscarrying AND is denied a termination, there can only be three plausible explanations for Ms. Hapappanavar’s "medical care" :
1) Irish law does indeed treat pregnant women as second class citizens and denies them appropriate medical care. The medical team was following the law to avoid criminal prosecution.
2) Irish law does not deny women the care they need; however, a zealous individual doctor or hospital administrator interpreted Catholic doctrine in such a way that a pregnant woman’s medical care was somehow irrelevant and superceded by heart tones of a 17 weeks fetus that could never be viable.
3) Irish law allows abortions for women when medically necessary, but the doctors involved were negligent in that they could not diagnose infection when it was so obviously present, did not know the treatment, or were not competent enough to carry out the treatment.
What we do know is that a young, pregnant, woman who presented to the hospital in a first world country died for want of appropriate medical care. Whether it’s Irish Catholic law or malpractice, only time will tell; however, no answer could possibly ease the pain and suffering of Ms. Halappanavar’s loved ones."
   Cenk Uygur and the ever lovely  Ana Kasparian, of The Young Turks,  discussed this very case, and Cenk displayed some fairly passionate fellings about it:
   I agree. I've always agreed.
   He's right you know. The Catholic religion is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never spoke of abortion. Not one word. Don't you think that if he had been against it he would have said something about it? There were probably as many or more abortions, or attempted abortions 2000 years ago as there are now, (allowing for difference's in population size between the two times). There was certainly the same need.
   Alright, lets go back further you say, for the sake of argument. One of the Ten Commandments is "Thou Shall Not Kill." Never mind the fact that the Ten Commandments are found in the Old Testament and are of Jewish origen. Thou Shall Not Kill is a pretty good commandment.
   But we kill all of the time. We kill in war, we kill in law enforcement, we kill in crime, we kill as a punishment, on and on. Why is it okay to press the "pause" button on the Sixth Commandment in those circumstances, but some of us feel so strongly about the potential life, not the life, but the potential life of an unborn fetus?
   Please tell me. I don't know why.
   Why is the life of the mother second to that of the fetus? I don't get it. Isn't the mother's life just as important as that of the fetus?  Shouldn't it, in fact, be more so, considering we know the life of the mother is viable, when that of the fetus is uncertain?
   The answer I believe is political in nature, as there doesn't seem to be much concern for children after they're born. Only when they're still in the womb.
   Cenk's also right about conservatives, mostly in the Republican Party, if they had their way, would make the same kind of Draconian laws in the United States that prevail in Ireland today.
   The United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would have outlawed any abortion whatsoever, even if the mother's life were threatened. Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan voted in favor of it.
   Fortunately, the Senate, controlled by Democrats, has more sense than the House, and killed the bill.
   State legislatures across the United States introduced 1100 provisions restricting women's reproductive rights in 2011. The first quarter of 2012 saw an additional 944 provisions introduced in state legislatures, half of which would restrict access to abortion.  Legislation has focused on mandatory ultrasounds, narrowing the time when abortions may be performed, and limiting insurance coverage of abortion.
   And that doesn't even include actions taken against birth control and agencies like Planned Parenthood (South Dakota and Nebraska considered laws last year that would designate the murdering of abortion providers as "justifiable homicide").
   Here's a breakdown on House bills concerning women's reproductive rights
   Cenk is right about another thing as well.
   It's fine if you belive something. You can believe blue fairies reside in your TV set and tickle your feet in the morning for all I care, how could that possibly affect me? You might even think Mitt Romney was a viable candidate for President. Yet when you attempt to hoist your world view onto me, then I have a problem.
   Why is it so important to so-called Christians that everyone believe as they do, and follow their tenets, so much so, that they are constantly wanting to make their tenets into law, as in Ireland right now?  Are they that insecure about their own faith that if everyone does not follow it, it might be wrong, or false, or flawed?
   I don't know. All I do know is that this has gone on throughout history and the result is most often violence, bloodshed, and death, which of course, is not very pro-life.
   Three days ago thousands of protesters outraged over Savita's death filled the streets of Dublin, holding a vigil outside of parliament. More vigils were held in other cities across Ireland.
   "What happened to this woman was nothing short of medieval," independent Socialist member of parliament Clare Daly told the crowd.
    "This was an obstetric emergency which should have been dealt with in a routine manner. Yet Irish doctors are restrained from making obvious medical decisions by a fear of potentially severe consequences. As the European Court of Human Rights ruled, as long as the 1861 Act remains in place, alongside a complete political unwillingness to touch the issue, pregnant women will continue to be unsafe in this country," stated Rachel Donnelly of Galway Pro-Choice.
   This is a tragic case. Quite rightly, and quite sadly, RH Reality Check's Jodi Jacobson point's out this type of situation is not at all unique:
   "Just this past summer, a teen in the Dominican Republic died because she was denied chemotherapy for cancer. Countless others die every day, but without press coverage we just don't see or hear about them. As [the woman's health organization] Ipas notes, Women in El Salvador and Mexico have been put in jail for both abortions and "suspicious" miscarriages. Young girls in Argentina and Brazil, victims of violence and incest, have been denied safe abortion care. A total abortion ban in Nicaragua means that not only do women die for lack of safe abortion care, but that untold numbers of women and girls who are the victims of violence are forced to endure pregnancy and childbearing against their will."
   What a world.
   "I was with her those four days in intensive care. Every time they kept telling me: 'She’s young. She’ll get over it.' But things never changed, they only got worse. She was so full of life. She loved kids," said Praveen Halappanavar.
   "It was all in their hands and they just let her go. How can you let a young woman go to save a baby who will die anyway? Savita could have had more babies.
   What is the use in being angry? I’ve lost her. I am talking about this because it shouldn’t happen to anyone else. It’s very hard. It has been a terrible few weeks, very hard to understand how this can happen in the twenty first century, very hard to explain to her family.
   If it had happened in the UK or India, the whole thing would have been over in a few hours. We just pray now, wherever she is, she is happy."
   The Diwali festival this year was cancelled due to the loss of Savita Halappanavar.


1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Psychologists will say-- If someone starts telling you what country you're in , or telling you screamingly obvious facts about that country, ( Ireland is a Catholic country etc ) it's time to look to start worrying, and buzz off from there--- EL PRONTO--
    -- for they now intend to teach you a lesson you will never ever forget.
    If you make the mistake of looking them in the eye , tellin' you are NOT Catholic or Irish , but a Hindu Indian --
    -- then only God save you from Catholic vindictiveness, we in India are too familiar with this during our 400 years of slavery, to white Catholics.
    Wise men will tell you that people simply do not bring up the country they are in , in a context just like that unless they are being racist.
    Wisdom dictates -- Savita’s tearful termination pleas were taken less seriously because they were perceived as the pleas of an unchurched , uncouth , pagan foreigner who should have some more respect for Irish Catholic beliefs and values.
    Which Indian doctor will tell a Catholic white woman that you are in HINDU INDIA now?
    Capt Ajit Vadakayil