Crucial information including repeated requests for a termination were not recorded in Savita Halappanavar’s medical records, her husband’s solicitor claimed yesterday.
Gerard O’Donnell, representing Praveen Halappanavar, said the notes covering her care on Monday, October 22nd, when it is alleged she made her first request for a termination, were “particularly scant”.
“It’s almost as if a whole day is missing from the notes,” he said last night. He said while there were records kept of her having cups of tea or of her husband asking for extra blankets for her, there was none on the requested termination.
Ms Halappanavar died at the hospital on October 28th, having presented with severe backpain a week earlier. She had been 17-weeks pregnant and had been found to be miscarrying. Mr Halappanavar says she asked repeatedly, between Monday 21st and Wednesday 23rd, that the pregnancy be terminated. This was refused, he says, as a foetal heartbeat was present and he claims they were told: “This is a Catholic country.”
She contracted E-coli and septicaemia and died four days after the foetus.
“There is no reference in the notes to the fact a termination was requested,” said Mr O’Donnell. “It is extremely fortunate that there were other people in the room when one of the requests was made, on the Tuesday morning, to witness the request and the reference to Ireland being a Catholic country.”
Mr Halappanavar has said the first request was made on Monday 22nd and that the consultant said she would have to check if this was permissible.
Mr Halappanavar has told The Irish Times the consultant returned on Tuesday morning.
He said she told them a termination was not possible as long as the foetal heartbeat remained, and made the “Catholic country” reference.
Also in the room, he has said, were a family friend, two junior doctors and a midwife.
Mr O’Donnell said he wrote to Galway University Hospital on November 2nd asking for copies of Ms Halappanavar’s medical notes and received them on November 16th.
Minister for Health James Reilly was asked about the claims of gaps in the health records in Sligo last night. He said: “Obviously this is of concern and this is a substantive matter for the investigation”.
HSE director general designate Tony O’Brien said information that Mr Halappanavar had that would “speak to any inconsistencies between what’s in the record and his personal knowledge would be of great value to the review team”.
A HSE spokeswoman said: “The investigation team has commenced its work and, as such, it would not be appropriate at this juncture to attempt to address matters which come within its remit. The investigation now under way will be important in terms of determining the completeness of information regarding the care provided to Ms Halappanavar.”
Meanwhile, advocacy group Patient Focus said its representative on the HSE inquiry team would walk away from any investigation which was not about getting to the bottom of what happened.