Chair of Savita inquiry says Eighth Amendment ties hands of doctors

The chair of the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar says the hands of a doctor should not be tied because of a legal situation.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the Eighth Amendment played a major role in Ms Halappanavar's death and her life could have been saved, if doctors had acted before she went into septic shock - writes

ProfArulkumaran said if doctors treating MsHalappanavar had not been concerned with the foetal heartbeat, she would have been treated much earlier.

He said he was happy that the Government had taken responsibility for the current situation and called the referendum so that the people of Ireland can see what is just and useful for women's health and lives.

Prof Arulkumaran said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act does not give enough legal clarity explaining that "threat to life" is often difficult to diagnose on medical grounds.

He added that the law only allows for doctors to intervene is cases of threat of death but that women's health must also be considered, pointing out that even had Ms Halappanavar's life been saved, she could have faced serious health problems as a result of her treatment.

Women should not, he said, face further health problems because of failure to intervene.

ProfArulkumaran is Dublin today to speak of the harms of the Eighth Amendment and the importance of a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum at an Irish Family Planning Association press event.

However, Consultant Obstetrician and GynaecologistDr Trevor Hayes, who ispart of the Doctors for Life organisation who support retaining the Eighth Amendment, says that the Eighth Amendment did not cause the death of Ms Halappanavar.

Dr Hayes told Morning Ireland that doctors had an ethical duty to protect the life of the woman and unborn baby.

He said that all necessary treatment to save the life of the mother is permitted under the Eighth, even if it results in the loss of life of a baby.

The law, he said, allowed him to recognise when there is risk to the mother and he does not have to "play medical roulette."

Dr Hayes said that he "doesn't worry about the Eighth Amendment"when he is practising obstetrics.

He said therethere were missed opportunities to treat Msbecause the recognition of sepsis came too late.

This is why, he added, that he believed the Eighth was not a cause in Ms Halappanavar's death and why it was worth protecting.

Dr Hayes said women's healthcare could become a political football and he did not trust the Government.

Meanwhile,Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he thinks the next few days of the referendum campaign will be crucial.

He said he hopes the last few days of the debate will be factual and will provide an opportunity for calm, respectful debate so people will have all of the facts, all the information and make an informed decision.

He added that if people wanted anything to change they will have to vote Yes because the Government has looked in the past to see if anything could be done and it cannot.

He said helooked at changing the 14-year prison sentence but it cannot be donebecause the Eighth amendment is an impediment to change.

A spokesperson for the LoveBoth campaign has said a No vote in Friday's referendum would only be the beginning and called for better financial support, adoption services and child care for women, saying Irish women and families have been clearly let down by the State.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Katie Ascough said she does not believe the answer is to remove the right to life from every unborn child in Ireland.

She said the Eighth Amendment is there to acknowledge the right to life.

She said she accepted the greatest protection the unborn child has at the moment is not constitutional or legislative, but the choice of pregnant women.

She said it has been proven that the rate of abortion increases in countries where it is legalised.

She said the rate of abortion is other countries is significantly higher than Ireland, including Spain where she said the rate was 3-4 times higher.

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