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Abortion death: Irish health minister meets Savita's husband

Dublin: Ireland's Health Minister James Reilly had a private meeting with the husband of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist who died in a Galway hospital last month after she was denied abortion, even as Praveen has alleged that his wife's repeated requests for a termination of pregnancy are missing from her medical notes.

Meanwhile, Ireland's health watchdog has launched a parallel probe into the circumstances surrounding the care and treatment provided to Savita, who died 28 October.

According to media reports, Reilly had a private meeting in Galway with Praveen Halappanavar and his solicitor Gerard O'Donnell. The minister expressed his condolences to Praveen on the death of his wife and said he would reflect on the concerns of the family, according to RTE News Ireland.

Savita Halappanavar. PTI.

Savita, 31, died at the University Hospital Galway on Oct 28, a week after she presented with severe back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying. Praveen says she asked repeatedly that the pregnancy be terminated. This was refused in pro-life Catholic Ireland, he says, as a foetal heartbeat was present.

Meanwhile, Praveen has expressed shock over the missing medical notes and told the Irish Independent how the absence of this information had destroyed any faith he had in the Health Service Executive (HSE), which is probing the reasons behind his wife's death.

The detailed notes from University Hospital Galway, where Savita was admitted, include information on requests for tea and toast and additional blankets, but make no reference whatsoever to the couple's requests over two separate days for the unviable pregnancy to be terminated, the daily quotes Praveen as saying.

Praveen's solicitor has also said that his client is prepared to go to the European Court of Human Rights if an independent public inquiry is not set up into his wife's death.

Separately the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to the health watchdog, Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) board and expressed doubts about whether any inquiry it carries out would be capable of meeting the State's legal obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Irishtimes.com said.

The HIQA is to probe the circumstances surrounding the care and treatment provided to Savita.

HIQA said it made its decision after considering information from the hospital and the Health Service Executive "to ascertain the facts about the tragic case".

Its investigation will assess whether the services provided complied with the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare and national and international evidence of what is known to achieve best outcomes, said RTE News Ireland.

The terms of reference and membership of the HIQA investigation team will be published when finalised.

Praveen has said he will not participate in the HSE investigation into his wife's death and has called for a full, sworn public inquiry, the Irish Independent writes.

Reilly said the potential involvement of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in a parallel inquiry was "very welcome and adds a new dimension in terms of independence".

"This (the missing notes) is a concern and this is a substantive matter for the investigation. It would be prejudicial for me to make any comment," the minister said.

"I would hope to have a full report before Christmas and the HIQA report as well."

Reilly would not rule out a sworn public inquiry. However, he insisted such an option could see the inquiry "go on for years".

Medical records made available to Praveen do not include doctors' notes for Monday, Oct 22 - the day the couple first requested a termination, the Irish Independent says.

However, while doctors' notes are available for Tuesday, Oct 23, they make no reference to the requested termination which was reiterated on that date.

"It's time to get the facts and the truth for Savita," Praveen is quoted by the paper as saying.

"I don't have any faith in the HSE. I saw [the files] earlier this week. It was a blow and that was the reason why we never wanted the HSE inquiry," he said.

It has also emerged that a number of clinical notes were added to the file after Savita's death.

However, none of these refer to the termination request.

"They have all the other information including requests for tea and toast and for an extra blanket, all of that is in the notes. But the important information about requesting the termination is not," said Praveen.

Tony O'Brien, the chief of the HSE, said it would attempt to provide any information being sought by Praveen relating to his wife's medical records.

He said the seven-member team would complete its examination of what happened and this is already under way at the hospital.

IANS