Savita Abortion Death: Widower To Sue Ireland

The widower of an Indian woman who died in an Irish hospital after being refused an abortion plans to sue Ireland's government.

Praveen Halappanavar has instructed his lawyers to file an application in the European Court of Human Rights over his wife's death.

His wife, Savita, was 17 weeks' pregnant when she died in Galway University Hospital on October 28, one week after being admitted for severe pain during a miscarriage.

Mr Halappanavar alleged that his wife, who was a dentist, pleaded with doctors to perform a medical termination.

He claims doctors denied her requests because a foetal heartbeat was present, telling her: "This is a Catholic country."

Mrs Halappanavar fell gravely ill after the dead foetus was removed and then suffered gradual organ failure.

A coroner ruled she died from blood poisoning and the contraction of e.coli bacteria.

It is understood that if the European Court of Human Rights agrees to hear the case, it would be the first of its kind against the Irish government.

Mr Halappanavar's solicitor Gerard O'Donnell says there are issues because a public inquiry has not yet been carried out in Ireland.

"The difficulty is that we are seeking a public inquiry and the European court will of course wonder have we exhausted remedies here in Ireland first," he said.

But the Halappanavar family had earlier warned they would file the application in the court if health minister James Reilly did not agree to hold a public inquiry into the circumstances of her death by the end of this week.

Dr Reilly said when he received the reports of two investigations into Mrs Halappanavar's death he would take whatever action is needed.

But Mr Halappanavar is refusing to co-operate with those investigations, and has reiterated his position that he will not settle for anything short of a public inquiry.

"[Praveen Halappanavar] being a witness to everything that happened to his wife in hospital would be important for any report," Mr O'Donnell said.

An inquest will also be held in Galway.

Mr O'Donnell said the case would be brought under article two of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Under article two a person is entitled to an inquiry that is independent, effective, prompt and open to public scrutiny.

They are usually carried out when there is a state connection to a death, as in a hospital or in custody.

The case has reignited debates on abortion in Ireland with the government committed to reforming a limited ban in certain circumstances where there is a risk to the mother's life.