Savita inquest: sepsis the real issue

Cross-posted from  

It’s now clear that sepsis, not abortion, the key factor in Savita tragic death – and that Irish Times has case to answer. 


Evidence given at the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar has revealed that the treatment of sepsis in pregnancy was the key factor in the tragic events that occured in Galway University Hospital.

Dr Katherine Astbury has told the inquest that there were two major system failures: Vital signs were not checked every 4 hours after membranes had ruptured, and the doctor had not been told about an abnormal blood count, which indicated infection.


It is now also evident that the obstetrician treating Ms Halappanavar in Galway University Hospital was prepared to deliver Savita’s baby and end the pregnancy when septicaemia had been diagnosed. This is a crucial point as it clearly shows that Obstetricians in Ireland can, and do, intervene to end a pregnancy if there is a life-threatening complication.

Consultant obstetrician Dr Katherine Astbury also explained that the reason for checking the heartbeat of the unborn child was to ensure that Ms Halappanavar was not left “sitting around” with a dead foetus, as this could cause sepsis and infection.


Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that it was ‘enormously significant’ that Dr Katherine Astbury was also unequivocally disputing all claims that she had refused to intervene in the pregnancy because ‘this was a Catholic country’.

“There does not appear to be any corroborating evidence against Dr Astbury on this issue,” she said. “Yet the claim that she had relied on a Catholic ethos was first made in an interview on the Irish Times website, where it was alleged that Dr Astbury had made the comment in front of several witnesses, including junior doctors.”

It has now emerged that a midwife in the hospital referred to Ireland being a Catholic country in conversation with Savita, but Anna Maria Burke told the inquest that, while she very much regretted the remark, it was said during a chat and had nothing to do with the provision of care.

“I’m upset about this and I’m very upset. I did mention a Catholic country, I didn’t mention it in a hurtful context,” she told the inquest.

Ms Burke said she was speaking with Savita about what would occur in India and the Hindu faith had been mentioned in the conversation. Ms Burke was explaining why things were different in Ireland, she told the inquest.


“If the Irish Times published this claim with the knowledge that there was no corroborating evidence, then the paper has very serious questions to answer,” she said.

“Furthermore, they continued to publish the claim, with little regard to Dr Astbury’s integrity, despite the fact that the leaked HSE report revealed that the Obstetrician would have delivered the baby if it had been known that Savita’s life was in danger.”

“These questions need to be put to the Irish Times, who have prompted a global attack on the reputation of Irish doctors by their reporting around Savita’s tragic death,” said the Life Institute spokeswoman.


Evidence was given to the inquest that a blood test was taken when Savita was first admitted to the hospital on Sunday October 20th, but was not followed up on. What further compounded the tragedy was that an antibiotic-resistant strain of E.coli was the cause of the sepsis that led to Savita’s death.

Staff midwife Miriam Dunleavy told the inquest she had “never seeing anyone get so sick so fast”, in relation to Savita’s serious deterioration on Wednesday.

This was the first maternal death in NUI Galway Hospital in 17 years.

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