Monday, October 28, 2013


So Minister of Health, Dr. James Reilly has finally decided to meet Mr Praveen Halappanavar. It has taken almost twelve months for this Government Minister; this man; this man of medicine; this man of healing, to condescend, finally, to meet a man, who lost his wife, Savita in the most tragic and unnecessary circumstances, whilst in the care of medical staff in Galway University Hospital on 28th October 2012. Without getting into the 'ins' and 'outs' of this much publicized case, Mr Halappanavar knows how his wife died; he now needs to know why his wife died. This is a meeting that Mr Halappanavar sought almost 12 months ago, and I hope for his sake that it helps to answer some of the questions that have been chipping away at his heart and his brain since his wife's death.

Events and vigils have been organized throughout Ireland today to mark the lst anniversary of 31year old Savita's death. This woman, who was 17 weeks pregnant and looking forward to becoming a mother for the first time, went into hospital because of a threatened miscarriage and sadly never came out. Savita requested an abortion after spending three days in agonizing pain and with the knowledge that her unborn child could not possibly survive. She was refused that abortion on the grounds that the unborn child was still breathing. Ms Halappanvar's needless death rocked this nation to its very core and rightly so.

Who would want Dr.Reilly's job? There is no doubt that the portfolio of Minister for Health is the most complicated, emotionally-charged and costly of all to maintain and I would have a certain amount of sympathy for anyone holding that position. When Dr Reilly was appointed to that Government ministry, perhaps naively, I imagined he would bring that extra ingredient of empathy with him, that had been lacking with previous Health Ministers. Dr. Reilly's capabilities have been called into question time and time again during the lifetime of this Government, and I suppose, given the present financial climate, that was to be expected. What wasn't expected and completely unacceptable is, that it has taken almost twelve months for Dr. Reilly, our Minister of Health to agree to meet Praveen Halappanavar. 

And why now? A cynical attempt to rebuild a crumbling credibility? You don't need to be Dr Einstein, Madame Curie, or Louis Pasteur to know that medical knowledge and expertise without empathy for the patient and their loved ones is not only unacceptable, but quite often less effective. This should also apply to the governing of this State, the running of business, the pastoring of the Church, the administering of social welfare payments, and should ideally infiltrate all forms of social inter-action.

I am not saying that Dr. Reilly is not a competent doctor, but as the Minister for Health and also a medical professional, he failed Praveen Halappanavar and the rest of us, in his refusal to meet with Mr Halappanavar following repeated requests to do so. Dr. Reilly was not to blame for Savita's death, neither could he her bring back, but a simple meeting one year ago, would have at least suggested a modicum of empathy towards Mr. Halappanavar and indeed, the rest of us on this island; trudging and stumbling through one of the greatest recessions since the formation of the State. It would have shown both him and us, that we the people matter more than rhetoric, reputation, and money. Surely, even from a cynical perspective, it was a missed opportunity.

Well....Dr. Reilly, you have lost my sympathy vote. Too little...too late ...too circumspect....and leaning more towards hypocritical than hippocratic! 

Ciao for now!

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