An inquest was heard Tuesday in the case of an Indian woman who was allegedly told by a senior midwife at an Irish hospital that they could not terminate her dying baby because “it's a Catholic thing.”
Savita Halappanavar’s friend Mrudula Vasealli told Galway Coroner’s Court that the mother asked for an abortion after doctors at Galway University Hospital told her the fetus could not be saved.
"She said, the midwife, 'We do not do that here dear. It's a Catholic thing'.” Vasealli told the inquest. “The nurses were lovely. They took good care of her. It's the system that was wrong."
Halappanavar, 31, was seventeen weeks pregnant at the time. She died of septicaemia, a condition caused by a bacterial infection in the bloodstream, at the hospital one week after the drawn out miscarriage on Oct. 28, 2012.
Vasealli told the court that Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, collapsed and vomited in the hospital lobby when he was told his wife suffered from multiple organ failure and ultimately died from a heart attack.
"Somebody said Praveen collapsed," Vasealli said. "He was brought to the lobby. He was vomiting there. He couldn't walk. After about half an hour we all went home."
Halappanavar was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit in critical condition on Oct. 24. Vasealli said she stayed with her for a day, five days before her death, while her husband took her parents to the Dublin Airport.
After her death, there was a public outcry over Ireland’s strict abortion laws.
Her husband previously told an inquest that his wife asked for an abortion three times before she finally delivered the deceased baby.
His claim was denied by consultant obstetrician Katherine Astbury, who claimed she refused the abortion on the basis that Ireland is “a Catholic country.”
“Savita was very upset again because the [fetal] heartbeat was still there,” Vasealli read her statement to the court. “She cried, saying: ‘What kind of mother am I waiting for my own baby to stop its heartbeat? I'm losing it, I'm losing it terribly.’”
She told coroner Dr. Ciaran MacLoughlin that the mother cried continuously when the midwife came to check the fetal heartbeart again between 11:30 am and noon.
It is unclear who the midwife on duty was at the time. Clinical midwife manager Ann Maria Burke is being called to testify at the inquest, the Daily Mail reported.
"We both, Savita and I, asked if there was a possibility of saving the baby because there was still a heartbeat after three days," Vasealli said. "Savita said 'Can you please save it. If you can't do something to stop the [fetal] heartbeat, I can't take this waiting for the baby to die'."