How Many More Women Will The Irish Government Fail?

Last night, I read about the survivors of symphysiotomy and their horrific experiences in Irish maternity hospitals in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Symphysiotomy was a surgical practise used in Irish hospitals to widen labouring women’s pelvis’ apparently as an alternative to caesarean sections and to help aid future deliveries. A barbaric practise of which the last known case took place in Ireland in 1984. I was horrified reading it and grateful that I gave birth in this century and not the last.

Then this morning, I woke up to the tragic story of Savita Halappanavar, who died last month in University Hospital, Galway.  Savita was 17 weeks pregnant and according to the article in The Irish Times this morning was found to be miscarrying when she presented herself to UHG with severe back pain.

Via The Irish Times

The following is an excerpt from today’s Irish Times

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

The dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, where she died of septicaemia on the 28th.

“This is a Catholic Country”. I am ashamed this morning of our “Catholic Country”.

The investigations are still taking place into this woman’s death but from initial reporting it seems she was denied medical attention which, ultimately may have saved her life, due to the cowardice of both this government and every government that have held office of the last twenty years for failing to legislate for the X case ruling.

Savita was not Irish nor Catholic. Savita was a medical professional. Savita spent her last days in agony and grieving for her baby, who had no chance of survival. Savita asked for a medical termination and was refused as “this is a Catholic country”. Her life could possibly have been saved, no matter what treatment took place, her baby could not have been saved.

As an Irish person, I am horrified, saddened and embarrassed that in 2012, religion supersedes medical intervention. Religion has no place in medicine.

Under the X Case ruling, twenty years ago in 1992, abortion is permitted in Ireland when there is a real and substantial risk, to the mother’s life. This ruling took place twenty years ago and no government since has legislated for this situation. As a result its a murky area for doctors. In this situation, surely, the medical termination should have taken place? But its a very grey area and its apparent, doctors do not how to act in this area and the blame for that can only lie at the feet of the government.

Something has to be done and done quickly. Governments have consistently brushed this issue under the carpet, presumably, for fear of alienating sectors of the electorate but Ireland has changed and continues to change and this is a very real and important issue and by ignoring it , women will continue to be failed by the archaic laws in place and in worst case scenarios, women will die.

In the first instance, legislation for the X Case ruling, needs to be put in place, now. Not next year or not with the next government, now. Praveen Halappanavar, made the decision to speak to the media about what happened his wife, are the government going to ignore this? Are they going to offer him sympathies and move on or are they going to listen and take action?

Enda Kenny has made clear his stance on abortion and has publicly stated on many occasions he is against abortion. That is his opinion and he is perfectly entitled to hold it. If he is against abortion he should not have one. Personally, I would not have an abortion unless it was a medical necessity, so I wont have one. It is a personal choice, based on our own beliefs and situations.  Personal choice not the governments choice and not “Catholic Irelands” choice.

Enda Kenny  stated in Time magazine in September, that abortion is not on the political agenda in Ireland right now and it is not a priority of the government. We can only hope, the tradegy of Savita Halappanavar’s story can make it a priority and no more needless maternal deaths will occur.  We need clear legislation on abortion when there is risk to the mothers life and we need it now.

The National Womens Council of Ireland  are calling on Irish citizens to lobby their Td’s now to take action on the immediate need to legislate for the X case. You can read their message and find out the contact details of your local Td’s here

About The Clothesline

30 +, Husband, three little girls, one little boy, one dog. Overdrawn, overtired, overemotional and overwhelmed most of the time.
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13 Responses to How Many More Women Will The Irish Government Fail?

  1. Móna Wise says:

    This is a human rights – and more importantly – a women’s rights issue.
    Horrendous story. I am in such shock.

  2. Joanna says:

    A dog wouldn’t be treated like this. I’m Irish and I’m not a Catholic. I’m also a mother. I am bewildered and horrified that this woman and her husband were given “this is a Catholic country” as a reason for not giving this woman proper medical treatment. Who are these doctors? Why is the result of all their studies and qualifications to not be professional by invoking the most ridiculous of reasons for letting a patient die. Is it illegal to not be Catholic? And what if she had been? She was their patient, which has nothing to do with religion, and they didn’t listen to her. She could have thrown herself in a doorway on the street instead of seeking medical help to get the same result. What ever happened to ‘First do no harm’?

  3. Sinead says:

    Thank you for sharing this sad,sad story. I am in Australia, and had never heard of symphysiotomies till now. Incredibly sad. The list of sins of the church grows longer every day.

  4. MsTimpop says:

    Totally appalled and saddened by this and other stories like it. Maternal and infant deaths are all too common in Irish hospitals which are still following practice from the last century. I sincerely hope the media continues to pick up on other stores like this one. In Wexford, last year a bunch of pregnant women were trying to lobby for the Domino community midwifery service not to be cut. We were 6 women in total. The cut to the service was proposed as part of hospital cutbacks (even though the community midwifery service frees up more hospital beds) the service was given the chop in practice but not necessarily in name. And since then, an infant death occurred which, on all accounts could have been prevented. It is believed that it occurred due to negligence because of overcrowding.
    During our campaign to save the service we contacted every government member and tweeted strong maternal celebrities to ask them to highlight the issue and come on board the campaign. We were faced with blank faces and empty inboxes. Only one government member replied to our appeal but as you already know, nothing ever came of it. Its a disgrace that women are being treated in this way.
    Shame on all of us.

    • Angela Carroll says:

      i think it is terrible that this poor lady and her husband should should suffer because these medics were playing God The baby would not have survived so it was only proper to save the mother Our thoughts are with her poor husband and Family R.I.P.

  5. RK says:

    I am not at all surprised that is happened. I have two kids, a baby and a toddler, and on both births the hospital staff nearly killed me. On my first I was in labour for over a week, but failed to dilate more than 1cm, even though their monitors showed the regular contractions, and babys heartbeat was settin off the alarm, they kept sending me home. They were sending me home again on my last trip to the hospital when my waters broke, they were black, the baby had passed meconium and was in severe distress. I was rushed to theatre, knocked out, and my clothes cut off with a scissors while they did an emergency section. I thought things would be different with my second. I was given the option of vbac or another section. I said I wanted a section as I didnt want to take the risk of the same thing happening again. That was fine till I went into labour, I was not given a section, just left in labour for over 30 hours, ended up being given an episiotomy without being asked first. The episiotomy stiches ruptured, became seriously infected to the point where 10 days after the birth I rushed back to hospital, screaming in agony. The infection had gone right up inside me and I had an abcess too. I was ages in surgery having the infection sucked out, then a week on iv antibiotics, plus a transfusion. I’d love more kids but there is no way Id have one in this country again. I dont know if legislation will help much when the hospital staff seem to treat mothers wishes with contempt, at least in my experience.

  6. Pingback: It’s time to legislate |

  7. Maud says:

    Horrible, horrific story.

    The husband is quoted as saying (in the Irish Times) that they came to Ireland because their friends said it was a good place to have a baby. I can’t help wondering, as opposed to where, exactly? Better than India, perhaps, but I can think of a whole lot of better countries.

  8. Maud says:

    But I’m not sure all the blame can be laid at the feet of the lawmakers. I mean, yes, the legislation should be in place. But all those people in the hospital – what the hell were they doing? Standing around saying, “Um, er, don’t know, hands are tied, have to take it up with my superior, Catholic bloody country …” until it was too late to do anything? Were they all waiting for permission from on high? Was nobody willing to just save the woman’s life first and get a good lawyer second? No, I suppose not.

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  10. Totally agree Deborah. The time for brushing this under the carpet has passed. We need a change now. Not next year, or in another twenty years. Until we get change, no pregnant woman is truly safe in this country.

  11. J says:

    This upset me to the core of my being. I wanted myself to blog about it mysellf but I am so upset for this woman and her family. Why can’t a woman have control over her body.Why can’t a woman have a choice. She was sick, miscarrying…why wouldn’t they help her….Jesus this country has reached a new low….we are a shame to the world that we cant help our citizens

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