Savita Halappanavar inquest opens, husband to give account

An inquest opened today into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar who was reportedly denied an abortion in Ireland for her miscarrying foetus.

The death of Savita Halappanavar,31, at University Hospital Galway on October 28 last year prompted anger in India and sparked demands for Ireland to introduce new abortion laws.

Savita, hailing from Karnataka, died from blood poisoning after doctors refused to terminate her 17-week long pregnancy, telling her that the foetal heartbeat was still present and "this is a Catholic country".

The husband of Savita, Praveen Halappanavar was listed among the first four witnesses to give his evidence to Coroner Ciaran McLoughlin and a jury of six men and five women.

"He is determined to give his statement in person rather than simply having it read into the record. It will be trying. It is always upsetting for him to go through all the events again, but I know he feels he owes it to Savita to be heard personally and to give a true and real account of what unfolded that week at Galway University Hospital," his solicitor Gerard O'Donnell said.

The first witness to take the stand was Dr Helen Howley who saw Savita at her practice in Doughiska, Galway. Howley said at the 12-week check-up "Savita was as healthy and strong as she could be" and that she and her husband Praveen "were full of the joys and excited about the pregnancy", the 'Irish Times' reported.

The inquest will then hear from the Irish police and a pathologist involved in identifying her after her death.

The main consultant involved in Savita Halappanavar's care is likely to give her evidence tomorrow.

Among others called will be midwives, a microbiologist and members of the hospital's intensive-care team.

Savita's husband and his solicitor O'Donnell had a four-hour meeting yesterday with their full legal team in preparation for the inquest, scheduled for a week but likely to continue into next week with the basic remit to establish a cause of death taking into account the circumstances leading up to it.

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