February 22, 2024

Remember Savita?

The Indian dentist’s death was misrepresented.

A new style of journalism has emerged in the UK: slow journalism. “Because today’s ultra-fast news cycle rates being first above being right. It tells us what’s happening in real time, but rarely what it means,” says the website for its flagship magazine, Delayed Gratification. Perhaps one of its writers should revisit the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland in 2012.

Mrs Halappanavar was an Indian dentist who began to miscarry her first child. Thinking that the child was dead, she asked for an abortion. The staff at Galway University Hospital refused and she died of a massive infection. The world media went wild: “Ireland’s law and Catholic culture allowed Savita Halappanavar to die” was the headline in the normally sober UK magazine, New Statesman. The next year Ireland relaxed its strict laws on abortion.

However, a report released last week by Ireland’s  Health Information and Quality Authority shows that Savita’s death had nothing to do with the abortion law. It was caused by incompetence

“The findings of this investigation reflect a failure in the provision of the most basic elements of patient care to Savita Halappanavar and also the failure to recognise and act upon signs of her clinical deterioration in a timely and appropriate manner. The Authority identified, through a review of Savita Halappanavar’s healthcare record, a number of missed opportunities which, had they been identified and acted upon, may have potentially changed the outcome of her care.”

As a result 9 members of the medical team involved in Savita’s treatment have been disciplined.

However, compared to the blanket coverage of the woman’s death, almost nothing has appeared in the media. Opponents of abortion in Ireland are incensed. “Those who pushed the distorted version of the story hardest from the start have never bothered to set the record straight in light of all the reports that have contradicted their initial presentation of the case,” said Cora Sherlock, a solicitor and deputy chairman of Prolife Campaign. “These journalists and politicians were happy to hard wire a false account of what happened into people’s minds and to this day they have no intention of disturbing their original narrative.”

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Savita Halappanavar