No One Killed Savita

Ever since I read about the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, my mind keeps going back to the circumstances which led to the snuffing out of another innocent life whose only fault was that she was female, with a uterus and two ovaries, which rendered her able to conceive a child. Every time I think of her heart-breaking story, I am overwhelmed with horror, disbelief and despair. Horror and disbelief, because it happened in this day and age not in some sub-Saharan African country, not in Afghanistan and not even in Haryana but in a first world country, in Europe, in a hospital and right under the nose of qualified medical professionals. Despair, because if such an incident could come to pass where it did, no wonder control over their bodies remains a pipe-dream for the majority of women worldwide!

This poor unfortunate woman was in agony for three days, begging to terminate a pregnancy that was anyway doomed and by all accounts not even going to end with a surviving baby. The doctors apparently refused to do what common sense (and not least their medical training) dictated, saying that under Irish law they could not terminate the pregnancy as long as the foetal heart was beating. The foetus was  delivered only after its heart finally stopped , by which time Savita was already in the throes of a severe, fatal infection.

Now one of two things might be the case here.

1 Maybe Irish laws are truly, strictly regressive and consider women to be disposable second class citizens whose lives can be sacrificed in order to prolong, even by a few hours, the life of a non-viable foetus. The doctors, if this was the case, could be excused for trying to avoid criminal prosecution although what they did was definitely contrary to the very spirit of their profession.

2. Maybe Irish laws are archaic but open to interpretation, and it was an over-zealous  doctor who insisted on interpreting the laws just so, and chose to watch his/her patient die a slow but sure death. In which case it is not just a case of medical negligence but of cold-blooded murder.

I found this news item about a symposium on maternal health in Dublin barely two months back which, while claiming that abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of the mothers (idiots or what?), nonetheless states that no treatment should ever be withheld from a woman if she needed it to save her life, even if that treatment resulted in the loss of life of her unborn child. (See link)

So to me scenario -2 appears to be likelier–the law is archaic but ambiguous and open to varied interpretations and so the blame for Savita’s death must be shared by the doctors attending to her just as much as the Irish state. Shame on the doctors who killed her by denying her a life-saving abortion. At the very least they deserve to be stripped of their medical degree for so spectacularly failing to honour the Hippocratic oath.

By the way, is this really the norm in Ireland? I have heard of Irish women going to England to have a planned abortion, but are they really left to die like this when they are in need of an emergency abortion for medical reasons? If yes, how come we never heard of it before? If no, why Savita? Was she simply unfortunate in that her doctors  happened to be Catholic zealots?

I wonder if this shameful incident will make even a few pro-lifers recognize the untenability of their position on abortion in any society that has pretensions of being free and democratic. I am not betting on it.

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13 Responses to No One Killed Savita

  1. Smitha says:

    So sad, and so shameful. And as you say, the second option seems to the be more likely one. I hope too that this incident might make the pro-lifers think and understand that laws like this can end up killing more than saving lives. All we can do is hope, I suppose.

  2. R's Mom says:

    It was so so so horrible to read about this 😦 I am so totally depressed after reading na 😦

  3. This is such a sad story. I really hope she will get justice.

  4. Ashwathy says:

    That’s something I wondered as well. I mean have there been cases before Savita? Surely yes. Why have they never seen light of day? How many women died before this thanks to this law and its horrible interpretation? 😐

  5. Amit says:

    Ireland is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many countries with such laws and over the last 5 years, more and more countries have joined them. Read this –

    • Yeah, had read this. You know, this is one of those times when I am glad to be living in India. At least where laws on abortion are concerned, India is a lot better than a whole lot of countries.

  6. Fem says:

    Ireland is really primitive with respect to women’s rights. The clause in abortion laws ‘unless dangerous to the mother’ was only added in the 1980s. Up till the 1970s, married women were systematically discriminated against in Government jobs and even many companies required their husbands’ permissions to employ them. The last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland was closed only in 1996! All this when the rest of Europe had already progressed far, far ahead. Ireland may be developed in some respects, but in women’s rights, it is the Saudi Arabia of the West.

  7. Deeps says:

    An extremely unfortunate and disturbing incident to have hit have hit the humanity I agree with you, it is a clear case of cold blooded murder. And the doctors deserve to be completely stripped of their licenses. They don’t deserve to be called doctors, really!

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