This is the story of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who was admitted to Galway hospital with a miscarriage, she was 17 weeks pregnant. However, since she was refused an abortion(partly due to the abortion laws in Ireland), Savita suffered from sepsis and died in October 2012. She passed on in intensive care from multiple organ failure, E coli and septic shock, just our days after delivering a dead fetus.
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Barbaric and inhuman treatment
Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, not only lost their baby but his beloved wife. He revealed that the treatment Savita received was “’horrendous, barbaric and inhuman”. He claimed that the hospital did nothing to assist his wife and left her to die.
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Praveen said after the hearing: “We were always kept in the dark. If Savita would have known her life was at risk she would have jumped off the bed, straight to a different hospital. But we were never told.”
A timely abortion would have saved Savita’s life and if the abortion law in Ireland allowed for it.
Preventing a repeat tragedy
The jury unanimously stated that this was a case of a “medical misadventure”.
However this landmark case had the jury come up with nine recommendations to reform abortion law in Ireland.
According to IrishTimes.com, the recommendations are as follows, most are applicable nationwide:
1. The Medical Council should state clearly when a doctor should intervene to save a life of a mother. This removes any doubt and fear from the doctor and it also reassures the public.
2. There should be proper medical procedures so that errors don’t happen and blood samples should be properly followed up.
3. In the management of sepsis, protocols should be followed. There should also be proper training and guidelines for all medical and nursing staff.
4. There should be effective communication between staff on-call and the staff from the shift coming on duty. A proper handover should be done—time should be set aside for this important communication.
5. The department of microbiology, for each hospital and each hospital directorate, should write a proper protocol for sepsis.
6. There should be a modified warning score chart where every hospital can adopt as soon as practicable.
7. Effective communications should be carried out early between patients, relatives and medical staff to ensure that the treatment plan is understood and explained.
8. Medical notes and nursing notes should be separate documents that are kept separately.
9. There should not be any additions to the medical records of the deceased when the death is subject to a coroner’s inquiry. These additions may “inhibit the inquiry” thus obstruct the process of making recommendations that could prevent other fatalities.
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