Ireland at centre of medical negligence controversy

Date: Nov 20, 2012

Ireland has been making headlines lately for all the wrong reasons – it is at the centre of a medical negligence controversy.

The nation’s anti-abortion laws are under scrutiny after a 31-year-old woman died of septicaemia last month.

Savita Halappanavar was admitted to a hospital in Galway 17 weeks into her pregnancy, believed to be undergoing a miscarriage.

She and her husband repeatedly requested for an abortion, but were allegedly told by medical staff that “this is a Catholic country”, and they would not terminate the pregnancy while a foetal heartbeat was still present.

According to media reports, they were still refused the option of an abortion even though it was unlikely that the baby would survive.

This incident has sparked a nationwide debate about Ireland’s current abortion laws. Protesters have taken to the streets to challenge abortion legislation and many people have spoken out in anger towards the Catholic church.

However the main question on many people’s minds is: is this case an example of medical negligence?

Associate professor Dr Gerry Whyte of Trinity College Dublin told British newspaper the Guardian that he suspected negligence was involved.

“The legal principle is clear; in other words, if there was a real and substantial risk to the mother’s life and where termination of the pregnancy was necessary to avoid that risk, then she would have been entitled to an abortion,” Dr Whyte said.

However he added that he was not qualified or entitled to make further comment.

“Now clearly the case raises issues that I couldn’t comment on about medical judgments, about whether or not termination of the pregnancy would have saved her life or not.”

These comments are based on speculation only. A formal investigation has just been announced by the Health Service Executive (HSE), with a seven-member inquiry team set to review the case over the next three days.

The team will be headed by the head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s University of London, professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran.

Other members include three representatives from Galway University Hospital and a patient advocate.

At a press conference, Dr Philip Crowley of the HSE said that his “sole concern is the safety of our patients and the quality of care we provide to them”.

It is yet to be decided whether this case could be classified as medical negligence. However, the incident does serve as a reminder to Australians that sometimes preventable accidents do happen in hospitals.

There are medical negligence lawyers in Sydney that can speak with you if you ever have any concerns about the quality of care you have received. These compensation lawyers operate on a no win no fee basis, meaning that you do not have to pay unless your claim is successful.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.