Cruel principles?

Some readers commenting on my last post drew attention to the appalling news just in from Ireland, of the death of a woman in a Galway hospital, where she had been taken as she was experiencing a miscarriage. Medical staff, apparently, were unwilling to terminate her pregnancy even though the foetus was inevitably dying and the delay in forcing the delivery was placing the mother in jeopardy; in the event both mother and baby died. According to the report in the Irish Times, the patient, Ms Savita Halappanavar, was told that no termination could take place while there was still a foetal heartbeat because ‘this is a Catholic country’.

I have never believed that abortion is simply a human rights issue; it seems to me to be far more complex. But nonetheless what appears to have happened here is outrageous and horrible. As far as I know we have not heard yet from the hospital, so we don’t know for sure what the medical staff believed they were doing; nor have they confirmed that Ms Halappanavar was told what I have quoted above. But if it is all true, then so-called ‘pro life’ principles, which in any case seem often to have a curiously limited view of ‘life’ and of quality of life and which may be more about opposition to social liberalisation, are being conscripted into a campaign that in cases such as this just seems cruel.

One must absolutely accept that doctors and nurses sometimes have horrifyingly difficult decisions to take in extreme medical cases. But pro-life groups, and those who  allow themselves to be bullied by such groups into enacting or enforcing extreme laws, need to be reminded that life is complex, not simple, and that to elevate abstract principles above people is to abandon the values that make us civilised. It is time to ensure that whatever may have happened in Galway cannot happen again.

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24 Comments on “Cruel principles?”

  1. Vince Says:

    This now seems to be a case of people jumping the gun. And adding a few things together that aren’t really part of it.
    It now seems it wouldn’t have mattered where she presented for treatment, be that in the UK of Fr, It, Sp or USA. The procedure is one of wait and monitor very closely. But it would have been very rare that her womb would have been evacuated simply because of the risk of infection from the procedure. So it wasn’t an error or active medical negligence amounting to homicide but tragic bad luck.
    It is very unlikely a member of the medical community would have said that to her husband about the Catholic thing. I would suggest that is an insert to his mouth from people with a different agenda.
    Yesterday. All day long the reports were thin on facts but wide on opinion. Sound bites were recycled and fashioned into nails to hang the flayed skin of Irish society and by people that should have known better.
    Even now as I listen to Morning Ireland on the wireless there is a persistence in including this poor woman to an middle class Irish attitude which is pro-choice. You can’t get beyond the notion that some are not allowing a perfectly good crises to go to waste.
    That the position in the Irish Republic viz legal termination need updating is plain. We are caught between an Act from Westminster dating to the mid 1800s and the Supreme Court decision on the X-case and since the administrative courts together with the practitioners in the legal unions operate the Common Laws still you can’t blame the medics for being very careful.

  2. Al Says:

    Well said FVP.
    Will the legislative and executive had the fortitude to deal with this?

  3. Rachel Says:

    See drjengunter.wordpress.com for the view of at least one obstetrician in whose experience “the procedure” is NOT “wait and monitor”. More information about what led to his terrible event will presumably emerge when the investigations are complete, but as far as I can see this has nothing to do with abortion on demand. I am already bothered by the following. A woman who was faced with the horrible situation of the certain and imminent loss of a much wanted pregnancy requested that this process, which was already irreversibly under way, be expedited. This was refused and she suffered days of excruciating physical pain to add to the emotional and physical trauma of the pregnancy loss. I doubt that this is what most Irish people think appropriate and I wonder how often it happens in Irish hospitals. (That is leaving aside, until more is known, the horrific outcome for Savita Halappanavar).

  4. OMF Says:

    I don’t think this case had a lot to do with pro-life or pro-choice or the abortion debate at all.

    I think it had everything to do with the fact that Ireland is a pretty brutal place. It’s a place where, yes, you can be left to slowly die in a hospital bed while millionaire consultants refuse to treat you on legal advice from a court system which lets rich sex offenders off with a fine an a suspended sentence. It’s a place where children were and probably still are fair game for abuse and molestation by religious orders. It’s a place where no-one important is ever, ever held accountable for anything but where petty criminals are still expected to defecate into buckets in the nation’s largest prison.

    Ireland is a brutal place. Why do you think so many people have left it?

  5. Eddie Says:

    If she was in an England hospital, she would have been saved. Silly to say otherwise. Shame that this has happened in a so called civilised country. Do not blame Westminster as the country became independent in nearly a century ago..

    • Vince Says:

      We don’t know yet if that is the case. There may be reasons why none would have performed the evacuation.
      Westminster is a statement of fact not fault.

      • Eddie Says:

        Only you are arguing like that, others do not, including my Obs and Gyn consultant friend who has seen quite a few cases, the last one flown by the patient’s family, guess from where. The poor woman would have been saved even in India. It is shameful when bishops rule the country, thrusting their religious beliefs more like Talibans. Why not just say you agree with these bishops. That would be more honest. Blaming Westmnister after 90+ tyears of becoming indpendence is plain silly.

        • V.H Says:

          As I said in an earlier comment, if the medics are at fault by omission or any other reason, I think they should be charged. However the information as presented that first day has significantly changed from being absolute to something more nuanced.
          Further, if the moral position of a doctor was to allow any woman (or man)to suffer in any way and more particularly here I think they most definitely should be charged with murder.

          Outside that, my beliefs or lack thereof are none of your beeswax. And if you have mistook my profoundly democratic position for a subservience of any sort to anyone you need you head examined.
          While the Westminster Act, see this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offences_against_the_Person_Act_1861 and if you cannot understand that the Irish common law system is a daughter system, then ask FvP. Why the Irish Supreme Court has advised that revision because of X then just look at what that Law Roll covers. And think what will vanish from the statute book if someone stands before the SC and demands it be struck down. Let me put it this way. It’s a roll. One single sheet. If one bit is repugnant to the Constitution then the whole is gone. That’s the why there is a need for legislation, it has nothing to do with this situation. This has been answered.

          • Eddie Says:

            I stand by my earlier reply and all of it! I am surprised that some one even brings Westminster into this, even after a country achieved independence nearly a century ago, and is a sovereign republic now. What a shame!

        • Anna Notaro Says:

          @Eddie ‘..would have been saved *even* in India’ oh dear!…
          Fascinating to see, in the way the thread is developing, how this particular tragic case of denied abortion and/or medical malpractice is bringing to the surface a complex know of issues which have to do not only with gender politics and human rights, but also with race, the cultural legacy of the British empire and the contradictions of a postcolonial mentality.

          • Anna Notaro Says:

            Sorry, I meant complex knot (typo above)

          • Eddie Says:

            You are trying to be too clever, which is not unusual, and making construction which is bizarre, not unusual either! These cases are easily handled in India (comments from there)and mother saved,in this poor woman’s native country. Reading too much into an observation, and interpreting, not unusual too!! This case is reported in every country and if one cares to read them.

      • OMF Says:

        We don’t know yet if that is the case.

        The dogs on the street know that she died because she was left untreated for so long.

        She was left untreated because officials in this country are institutionally amoral.

        • V.H Says:

          The problem with dogs is they follow a particular scent until they catch sight then they follow by eye. But it doesn’t matter to them that the chase is different with each sense. What they were following with their nose doesn’t necessarily convert to the eye.

          As to the Officials. I would use lazy, craven, institutionally stupid, greedy and savage long before I’d use the implied disinterest of amorality. There is a good deal less justifying self-interest in amorality.

        • Eddie Says:

          @OMF “The dogs on the street know that she died because she was left untreated for so long”
          That is the view of my friends and relatives in this poor woman’s native country, and indeed of almost all commentators in the English-speaking world.

  6. Anna Notaro Says:

    @Eddie For the record I’m not *trying* to be anything here, my comments simply reflect my views and, ultimately, the kind of mind I have, if that is ‘too clever’ for you to handle, well it’s your problem…


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