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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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67 Responses

  1. matlun
    matlun April 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

    No, hospitals may not all operate according to religious dogma

    If the law is written according to religious dogma, then does it not follow that all hospitals operating under the law are operating according to religious dogma?

    This comment was not the problem. The problem was utterly pointless and irrational laws causing a woman to unnecessarily die a painful death.

    1. Loscann
      Loscann April 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm |

      Absolutely right.

      Also this:

      The state coroner, Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin, testified that public hospitals in Ireland were not bound by any religious dogma.

      is a gigantic fucking lie. The Mater Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital, both in Dublin, both major public teaching hospitals, are both explicitly Catholic hospitals. I’m on my phone so can’t link to their mission statements, but it’s all on their websites.

      A few years ago the Mater refused to provide a cancer treatment that would have required female patients to use birth control while taking it.

      Thanks for covering the Savita case, Feministe. There will be lots more on the case when the inquest verdict is published (hopefully around the end of the week or early next week) and when the HSE report comes out.

      Watch out for a lot of pro-life bullshit about how minor medical oversights on the Wednesday contributed to her death. It’s rubbish. She died because she was repeatedly denied an abortion on the Monday and Tuesday. She should never have gotten to the condition she was in on Wednesday.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm |

      This comment was not the problem. The problem was utterly pointless and irrational laws causing a woman to unnecessarily die a painful death.

      When religious dogma is inconsistent with the medical standard of care, then the standard of care must trump dogma. I already flogged this horse the last time we discussed this case at Feministe, but there were several ways in which the standard of care was breached in Ms. Halappanavar’s case. First in allowing her to linger with her water broken for several days, second without the administration of antibiotics to prevent infection, and finally without terminating or otherwise speeding along her labor. It’s unconscionable that they let her die an utterly preventable death in the name of letting God’s supposed plan be played out.

      Never mind that this woman was not even a practicing Catholic, and that she did not want to take a wait and see approach to her medical care. The entire thing makes me rage with fury on her behalf.

      1. XtinaS
        XtinaS April 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm |

        When religious dogma is inconsistent with the medical standard of care, then the standard of care must trump dogma.

        Are there actually times when religious dogma must trump medical standard of care?

        1. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan April 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

          If someone wants to refuse care for themselves for stupid reasons, they can. But that’s about it.

      2. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

        Are there actually times when religious dogma must trump medical standard of care?

        Well, that’s iffy. If the patient is ok with it, and signs a waiver, then it’s often allowable. It certainly happens with Jehovah’s Witnesses when blood transfusions are involved. I’ve also encounted cases where a laboring patient would not allow men in the room during L&D and insisted on remaining fully covered (which is kind of tricky when actual delivery is under way.) Christian Scientists are also against most medical care, and a keystone of their faith is that illness can literally be prayed away. There are patients of that religion who have declined life saving measures or treatments because of that religious doctrine.

        But what the patient’s religious beliefs hold and what they may want (or not) wrt to treatment is entirely separate from a scenario where the doctor or hospital may seek to practice medicine informed by their religious beliefs. If the patient’s beliefs diverge from that of the doctor/hospital/other medical professional the patient’s needs and wants should remain paramount.

  2. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 15, 2013 at 1:14 pm |

    Oh, well, as long as it wasn’t hurtful I guess that whole de facto murder thing was fine.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm |

      (ETA: Not blaming the midwife; she didn’t determine policy, clearly.)

      1. EG
        EG April 16, 2013 at 10:01 am |

        You know what? I am blaming her and every other individual involved in this debacle. I don’t accept “just following orders” as sufficient to justify letting a patient in your care die. Unless the midwife did everything in her power to advocate for an abortion, including performing one herself (and this is why all reproductive care specialists need to learn how), she is personally responsible.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 16, 2013 at 11:09 am |

          Fair enough; I meant that I wasn’t blaming her for the laws being existent in the first place.

          Seriously, I spent a while talking to Val about this case (I have highly specific medical- and pregnancy-related phobias that mean I can’t just Use The Google on this one) and the more stuff she explained, the more horrified I got. They actually pretty much killed her and the baby, didn’t they? Fuck.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 16, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

          They actually pretty much killed her and the baby, didn’t they?

          What baby?

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date April 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm |

          What baby?

          The baby the parents were hoping to have.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

          What baby?

          Er…if it was planned and wanted, I’m going to go right ahead and assume it was one, in their minds, if that’s all right by you.

        5. matlun
          matlun April 16, 2013 at 8:14 pm |

          They actually pretty much killed her and the baby, didn’t they?

          The fetus (or baby to be) was dying already when they reached the hospital. She had a miscarriage.

        6. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 2:02 am |

          Er…if it was planned and wanted, I’m going to go right ahead and assume it was one, in their minds, if that’s all right by you.

          It’s not all right. The assumption that the fetus was a baby and needed to be kept alive at any cost is precisely what killed her.

        7. Willard
          Willard April 17, 2013 at 2:30 am |

          Um…the belief that life begins at conception and that preserving the sanctity of human life is paramount was what the laws that led to the situation she ended up in were based on. They, plus what sounds like generally negligent care are what killed her. Not what word was used to describe the fetus/baby/unborn-child/quickened progeny by some people on teh internets or elsewhere.

          If the argument strategy you’re going to use is “it’s not a baby, it’s a fetus” that might work on the emotionally shallow who are swayed by pictures of cute babies juxtaposed with stock images of chum-buckets, but actual people? I kinda doubt it. It is probably better than mine, which is that yes it is alive and technically human, but killing people if the net benefit to society is positive is a-okay. The numbers are easier with a baby than an adult anyway.

        8. EG
          EG April 17, 2013 at 11:27 am |

          I strongly disagree, Steve. The baby was wanted, and so I will call it a baby, but that does not mean that its heartbeat is more valuable than the life of the mother. That is a separate judgment altogether.

        9. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 11:34 am |

          I strongly disagree, Steve. The baby was wanted,

          Am I wrong or did she not ask for a termination? I don’t happen to believe she was requesting that they kill her baby. Is that an outrageous position?

        10. EG
          EG April 17, 2013 at 11:39 am |

          She was already miscarrying; the baby was dying. She asked for an abortion because she didn’t want to die with it, not because she’d changed her mind at the end of the second trimester and decided she didn’t want it after all.

        11. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 11:47 am |

          She was already miscarrying; the baby was dying. She asked for an abortion because she didn’t want to die with it, not because she’d changed her mind at the end of the second trimester and decided she didn’t want it after all.

          OK, then we are splitting hairs somewhat and I suppose in the scheme of things the actions are far more important than words in cases like this.

        12. Emolee
          Emolee April 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm |

          I typically go with fetus, unless I know that the pregnant person views it as a baby, in which case I will go with baby.

        13. Willard
          Willard April 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm |

          that does not mean that its heartbeat is more valuable than the life of the mother

          I like that turn of phrase EG and it gets to the root of the issue so succinctly.

          we are splitting hairs somewhat

          More than somewhat. Baby has a broad range of uses and the attempts by anti-abortionists to create a false equivalency between the embryonic/fetal use and the full infant are reprehensible. However it works the other direction where the complete reduction of the unborn to “fetus” as some sort of non-life or alien parasite is asinine. Mealy-mouthed rhetorical flourishes don’t win arguments, they bury the issues under jargon.

          I’m sure Dr. Halappanavar, had they aborted and she pulled through, would have been discharged whistling Dixie had you been there to explain she hadn’t lost a baby but just a fetus.
          /sarcasm

  3. DAS
    DAS April 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm |

    I’ve actually heard Catholic pro-lifers (men, not surprisingly) argue “if I were pregnant and the pregnancy was threatening my life, I would be willing to die — after all, if Jesus could die on the cross for my salvation and the martyrs could suffer horrific deaths for their faith, dying rather than aborting a fetus is the least I could do to show my faith”.

    Of course, such people usually point out that they wouldn’t expect others to make that same choice and are willing to have (extremely and ridiculously narrow) allowances for abortion in the case of saving a woman’s life. And officially, the Catholic church allows medical treatment to save a woman’s life even if it means the fetus ends up getting aborted in the process (why wasn’t that allowance used in this case?) — but still, if so-called pro-lifers are coming from a point of view that women should embrace their chance at martyrdom, they are hardly pro-LIFE now, are they? How are they any different than other death-cultists (e.g. those who make martyrs out of terrorists)?

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm |

      And officially, the Catholic church allows medical treatment to save a woman’s life even if it means the fetus ends up getting aborted in the process

      My understanding is that their exception is even more narrow—the lifesaving surgical procedure can’t “directly attack” the fetus, even if doing so is the only way to save the mother’s life. I don’t know if that condition would have been met in this case, or if that has anything to do with with why Savita was refused treatment.

      1. Dawnbreaker
        Dawnbreaker April 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm |

        As far as I know, a few years ago, the Irish parliament actually decided that in the case of it being life-threatening to the woman, a pregnancy can be terminated, but it was never made into law in practice (not sure what the specific legal terms are).

        1. Wendy Lyon
          Wendy Lyon April 16, 2013 at 1:29 am |

          The Supreme Court decided it 21 years ago. The Irish Parliament has been too cowardly to put it into law.

          Even if they had, though, it’s not clear that would have saved Savita. The testimony from the inquest has been that they didn’t believe her condition was sufficiently life-threatening to qualify her for an abortion under the law, until it was too late. Which mainly shows why the law itself is unworkable.

    2. yes
      yes April 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

      I’m remembering something from the recent American presidential election. McCain’s comment is really such an inadvertently concise explanation of how hard line pro-lifers tend to view medical necessity and abortion.

      Oddly, most of the pro-lifers I’ve heard make the “I’d die before I’d abort” argument are women. That doesn’t make the argument any less stupid or uninteresting, though.

      1. Anna in PDX
        Anna in PDX April 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

        Well, the only people who *can* make the argument that they’d die before they’d abort are women, right?

        1. bookshopcat
          bookshopcat April 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm |

          Wrong. Cis women aren’t the only people who can get pregnant.

        2. BabyRaptor
          BabyRaptor April 16, 2013 at 12:49 am |

          Even if some women would make that choice, it doesn’t give them the right to force ALL people with the potential to get pregnant into that situation.

        3. yes
          yes April 16, 2013 at 6:10 pm |

          And Mark Wahlberg has an impressive build. I still rolled my eyes when he talked about how he would have stopped 9/11 with his fabulous muscles if he’d been on one of the planes.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm |

      if I were pregnant and the pregnancy was threatening my life, I would be willing to die

      …I just don’t understand this. I mean, if it were a case of already being in labour, etc, I can at least see some sort of point in being willing to die, but until 5-6 months in the fetus isn’t exactly viable, so…hooray? You are now killing what you perceive as two persons instead of just one? Go you?

      o_O I…I just don’t get it.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan April 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

        You see, you’re missing the whole point of Catholicism. More death is better!

      2. asia
        asia April 17, 2013 at 12:03 am |

        I think from my years at catholic school. That instead of a conscious decision to die its more of a. “Due to my extreme love and devotion to god and baby, I would never take any steps that could potentially harm said baby even if said steps could save my life”.

        Its more of a inaction that might lead to death with everyone hoping nature/god’s will/ woman’s body will sort the problem out. Exactly what happened in this case. The doctors seemed to think that her body would eventually fully pass the fetus.

  4. Willard
    Willard April 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm |

    Don’t look at the man in a funny hat behind the curtain! This kind of story fires up the angry atheist in me.

    Of course it’s a problem she mentioned religion, you only get to do that when you’re getting the ridiculously regressive and irrational laws passed! After they’re “the law of the land” and they exist in a vacuum, far away from any criticism based on their origin or intent.

  5. Maki P
    Maki P April 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm |

    I live in Costa Rica, a Catholic Country (possibly the only country with an official religion in America). So yep.
    Some time ago we were pushing to make the gov. secular, and religious leader threatened to excommunicate the politicians involved (which is illegal btw).
    It’s actually why in-vitro fertilization is illegal here. (I am dead serious)

  6. Anna in PDX
    Anna in PDX April 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm |

    The story is confusing. As many upthread commented, the focus of the story is utterly weird. Who cares what she said? The problem is that the woman died, not that she was told by the midwife why her life would not be saved.

    1. EG
      EG April 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

      I’d say it matters because it’s a concrete example of the Catholic Church’s policies leading directly to a woman’s death. The Church has blood on its hands–again.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm |

      It absolutely matters, because it’s directly germaine to how Ms. Halappanavar’s lack of medical care occurred. If the explanation was something more along the lines of, well our practice is to let laboring patients go for 48 or 72 hours to see if they will deliver without antibiotics, augmentation, or sectioning, that would be a different sort of scenario. This isn’t about a different standard of care being applied than what we see here in the States (or Canada, Great Britain, and much of the rest of Western Europe for that matter) this is about letting religious doctrine dictate what sort of medical care will or will not be provided to pregnant patients in Irish hospitals.

      That’s not acceptable, not when it results in absolutely preventable deaths or injuries.

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm |

      The problem is that the woman died, not that she was told by the midwife why her life would not be saved.

      Everything EG and Lola said. Also, honestly, I’m glad Dr Halappanavar was told that, as horrible a thing as it was; it means that the case that something resembling justice can be done for her just got a bit stronger.

  7. Bloix
    Bloix April 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

    “Who cares what she said?”

    The midwife is concerned that what she said might be taken as, “This is a Catholic country, you pagan black Hindoo heathen, and you can die and go straight to hell and be damned for all eternity for all I care.” Which is probably what she meant.

    That’s what she cares about what she said.

    1. Asia
      Asia April 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

      I don’t think we have evidence that she and the medical personnel didn’t care about their patient. As opposed to them not seeing a legal way of saving her. They also might not have accurately judged the risks of not giving her the abortion. But, yea the religious based laws prevented them from providing the best care.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm |

        No, just no. Even the WHO Protocols for laboring patients call for administering antibiotics and delivering patients who have been with ruptured membranes for longer than 48 hours. Ms. Halappanavar’s membranes were ruptured for over 72 hours by the time she died, and she did in fact die of sepsis.

        A conservative approach, which is supported by the
        existing evidence, would indicate a policy which requires observation without vaginal examination and without antibiotics, during the first 48 hours after PROM. If labour has not commenced spontaneously during that period (in about 20% of the women), consideration could be given to oxytocin induction. However, these results are obtained in populations of women from developed countries in good health, and in hospitals where it was possible to maintain high standards of hygiene at all times. In different populations a more active management may be advisable, with the use of antibiotics and earlier induction of labour. Given that in the developing world puerperal sepsis is often the third or fourth cause of maternal mortality all efforts should be made to prevent it, whatever its source.

        Here in the U.S. the standard of care is usually to administer antibiotics to laboring patients who have had ruptured membranes for longer than 24 hours, and to either augment or section that patient if delivery does not appear imminent. Even if they were looking at the WHO protocols for their standard of care, this hospital and the care providers working there did not follow proper procedured for treating this poor woman. This is the 21st century, for crying out loud, and the medicine on subject this is no longer murky. Give her antibiotics, put her on pitocin to speed labor, or section her. Waiting for her to die is not practicing sound medicine, and while there is plenty to criticize about the litigiousness of our USian culture, both this hospital and the physicians treating here would have faced a multimillion dollar judgment and likely disciplinary action from their state medical licensing board if this had occurred here in the U.S.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 9:14 pm |

          Of course the most expedient way to deal with this whole scenario would have been to terminate the pregnancy. But if the hospital and physicians treating Ms. Halappanavar were so intent upon not terminating her pregnancy, they still had other options available to them other than waiting for her to die. That is what I’m directing most of my comment to above.

        2. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date April 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm |

          This is what I don’t get. Antibiotics would have been termination-neutral, right? And yet they didn’t do it.

        3. shfree
          shfree April 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

          Yeah, what expiration said. I was only running a fever during my labor, and they hooked me up with an antibiotic drip on principle. The fact that they didn’t give her antibiotics, amongst all the other things wrong with the whole case, is really, really baffling. It is the most basic of the steps if they are going to insist that she not get a termination.

        4. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl April 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm |

          I actually developed sepsis after my section for my twins. I was horribly sick and was readmitted to the hospital for a week. Sepsis is a terrible illness from which to die, and now that antibiotics are so readily available it is usually quite easy to treat.

          You are absolutely correct, PMED, that antibiotics should be considered a neutral treatment for a laboring patient. I mean, why bother admitting her to hospital at all if they were going to take such a hands off aproach that they basically stood by and watched her die?

        5. matlun
          matlun April 16, 2013 at 7:06 am |

          Ms. Halappanavar’s membranes were ruptured for over 72 hours by the time she died

          Yes, but not until they administered antibiotics. According to testimony at the inquest, though, the wrong antibiotic may have been used at first.

          Anyway:
          If the law is that abortion can only be done if there is an immediate risk to the life of the woman, then this means that the type of misjudgment that was made here (where the risk was misjudged as not serious enough until too late) becomes easy.

          This may be a case of malpractice even under Irish law, but it is still a predictable consequence of the legal situation. If you say that you should wait until the last moment to save the patient, then there will be failure for some patients.

          It is especially ridiculous in a case like this where it was known that the fetus was non-viable and they were just waiting for the heartbeat to stop. There was no possible upside to letting her wait in pain with additional risks even if you were pro-life and failed to predict her death.

        6. Wendy Lyon
          Wendy Lyon April 16, 2013 at 8:09 am |

          If the law is that abortion can only be done if there is an immediate risk to the life of the woman, then this means that the type of misjudgment that was made here (where the risk was misjudged as not serious enough until too late) becomes easy.

          The law actually doesn’t require an immediate risk, just a “real and substantial” one. The Supreme Court specifically rejected the “immediate” requirement in the X case. But who knows what “real and substantial” means in practice, anyway. The consultant testified that she believed there must be a 51% chance of death, which has no basis in the court’s jurisprudence, but in the absence of any guidelines and with the threat of prosecution hanging over her head, it’s not hard to see how these misinterpretations happen.

        7. EG
          EG April 16, 2013 at 8:33 am |

          Holy shit, for real? Like, if I’m only 40% likely to die, that wouldn’t have been considered enough by this consultant?

          Fuck every single person involved with this. I don’t care what the law says. They are fundamentally immoral people for adhering to a fundamentally immoral law, sitting on their hands and watching a woman die when they could have saved her life. A truly moral person would have decided that her life was more important than splitting legal hairs.

        8. DAS
          DAS April 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm |

          But (from matlun’s link) the actual rupture didn’t occur until 24 Oct itself, so the hospital actually was operating well-within the WHO guidelines for PROM. Of course, the hospital was not operating within its own guidelines as far as antibiotic use.

          While an abortion before the rupture even occured would have prevented this death, it does indeed sound like such an abortion would not have been allowed even under the Irish Supreme Court ruling as until the rupture and subsequent sepsis occured, how could one know that there was such a risk of death (which is yet another reason to be against any restrictions on abortion). Anyway, the pro-lifers will claim (with some justification) that even without an abortion of a fetus with a heartbeat, Dr. Halappanavar’s death could have been prevented if the hospital followed its own protocols.

          To me, though, the bigger issue is not whether the WHO protocols were followed or the hospital protocols were followed or whether or not the abortion that would have been sufficient to save Dr. Halappanavar’s life (although, arguably the abortion was not necessary to save Dr. Halappanavar’s life if the doctors would have acted quicker to prevent sepsis), but rather (to borrow an argument from the pro-life people) the “culture of death” that restrictions, even on medically advisable abortions engender.

          After all, even if an abortion were not medically necessary in Dr. Halappanavar’s case — what kind of culture does it set up that women are expected to keep dying fetuses inside of them (with a risk of infection) until the fetus actually dies? What kind of culture do you have when pregnant women are expected to incubate what is pretty-much a parasite inside of them no matter what? Certainly not a culture which will actually properly care for said (pregnant) woman!

      2. Willard
        Willard April 16, 2013 at 1:00 am |

        From an article on the inquest into her death:

        Dr Astbury also revealed she had been unaware of blood test abnormalities as they had not been passed on to her team from the weekend staff on-call.

        She also confirmed the patient’s vital signs were not checked every four hours after her foetal membrane ruptured, which was a breach of hospital policy.

        The doctor also revealed that on the day the patient finally miscarried she did not know a junior colleague had put on her chart that he suspected Mrs Halappanavar was suffering from sepsis caused by chorioamnionitis – an infection of the foetal membrane.

        So multiple points of failure for the caregivers, which again would have been moot had they followed her wishes and cut their losses on the pregnancy. Instead they drew it out, failed to deliver proper care and killed her. The system is at fault for putting Mrs. Halappanavar in the situation, Doctors Astbury et al definitely put her in the grave.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl April 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

          She (Dr. Knowles) also said the Galway hospital’s own guidelines on administering antibiotics in cases of sepsis were not followed for a number of hours on this day. If the flow chart in the guidelines had been followed she would have had effective treatment from 7am on the day, rather than 1pm.

          Six hours in delaying the administration of antibiotics is significant, although arguably they should have given her stronger antibiotics once they did so and they still should have given them sooner than their protocols apparently called for. The additional testimony that other signs of infection were ignored and that protocols were not followed to catch a brewing infection is also quite damning. Oh, and that the treating physician apparently didn’t even bother to check her chart for test results or insure that the patient was being monitored properly is additionally indicative of gross malpractice.

          Look, I’m obviously not a doctor. But in a former life I defended doctors accused of malpractice. All of these points are pretty basic ones when it comes to standard of care in so-called “bad baby” cases. And all of these missed points and breaches of the standard of care jump out to me quite loudly. The whole entire scenario is really just indefensible.

    2. mamram
      mamram April 16, 2013 at 12:11 am |

      Seriously.

  8. Anna in PDX
    Anna in PDX April 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    OK, I understand what you are saying. I think it is horrific and that the Catholic church is absolutely responsible for Irish anti-abortion policies. But it did not seem to me that the midwife explaining this to the patient translates into an admission of culpability on the part of the church. That’s all.

    As for the point about cis women above, wow, well taken. I need to really start working on that blind spot. I support all sorts of things like trans rights, but guess I still personally have a completely binary attitude about pregnancy. This is why I keep reading Feministe.

  9. Kristen from MA
    Kristen from MA April 16, 2013 at 9:37 am |

    The fact that the primary physician in this case is a woman is seriously fucking with my head. I know that women can be just as dogmatic as men, and I wouldn’t excuse it if it had been a male MD, but for a woman to see another woman in that situation and do nothing. Gah! Fuck!

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl April 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

      I know that women can be just as dogmatic as men, and I wouldn’t excuse it if it had been a male MD

      I hear what you’re saying, but, yeah, it just doesn’t pan out for the most part in reality. All of my experience is anecdotal, obviously, but I’ve seen just as many female OBs as male OBs accused of malpractice. On a more personal level, the OB who malpracticed me into sepsis with my twins was a woman. The OB who came in to treat the sepsis, quite compassionately, was a man (he also pretty much single handedly saved my nursing relationship with my twins during that ordeal as well.) He and another male doctor were also the ones who championed my later (successful, as it turns out) two VBAC experiences.

      The bigger issue is the institutionalized sexism that is still part and parcel of the field of Obstetrics. There is still a great deal of progress that needs to be made in the compassionate and respectful administration of care to pregnant patients, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere. Not treating pregnant patients as mere baby vessels and instead treating them as individuals who deserve respect and the respect of their own bodily autonomy would go a long way towards ending that institionalized sexism.

  10. DAS
    DAS April 16, 2013 at 10:47 am |

    It sounds to me from reading the comments with more details on the case that Mrs. Halappanavar could have been treated properly and survived, even within the strictures imposed by Catholic teaching and Irish law: i.e. better monitoring to ensure effectiveness of the antibiotic and switching the antibiotic when it wasn’t working, etc., etc.

    That being said, I would argue that the position of “women’s health outcomes don’t matter when compared to abortion being evil, evil, evil” engenders an attitude of “women’s health outcomes don’t matter”. Even if the people involved don’t take the viewpoint of “if dying a horrible death is good enough for the martyrs, it’s the least you can do”, having a framework, legally enforced by the state and the hospital, where one is expected, even if not to die, to be willing to sustain grave harm and sickness rather than receive standard medical care creates an environment that is not conducive to people receiving proper medical care in general. In short, what you have when the legal system and hospital are so obsessed with maintaining a system of “morality” even at the cost of life, is a culture of death.

    The point of morality generally is to preserve life, which is God’s creation. The Bible says to choose life. And you can treat Jesus’ use of the word “Sabbath” in “the Sabbath was created for mankind” as a synecdoche for moral rules in general. These people are not choosing life. I know many a religious leader who will call the so-called pro-life movement on their culture of death (including my Rabbi). Funny, though, how the media never seems to grant their seal of approval of “real religion” on religious leaders and religious streams that actually promote a real culture of life.

    1. LMM
      LMM April 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

      Hell, if dying is so saint-worthy, shouldn’t a *child* be willing to die for their *parent*? Why are we asking conscious individuals to sacrifice themselves for their unaware, unviable fetuses?

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan April 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm |

        The child has a 50% chance of being male, ie. a real human being and not a dirty-slut-baby-machine like its mom is. So the child should take its mom with it. Duh.

        /Catholicism

        1. yes
          yes April 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

          Catholicism is sexist as all get-out, but no one thinks this. At all.

      2. DAS
        DAS April 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm |

        Indeed. God sacrificed His only-begotten Son, not himself.

        All snark aside, I think the other half of this is original sin. Not that the Catholic Church itself preaches this (anymore) but I think a certain view of original sin lurks in the mindset of many socially conservative Christians (and non-Christian social conservatives living in Christian countries who have absorbed certain attitudes in spite of their protestations of orthodoxy in their own religions): if you take the idea of original sin all the way, either fetuses are the only truly innocent individuals (as they have not yet “contracted” original sin) and hence do not deserve to die (unlike the rest of us sinners for whom the wages of our sin is death). Or fetuses are indeed condemned to hell and it’s tragic if they die because they haven’t had a chance to get baptized. Now if a miscarriage happens, well, that must be God’s plan … but abortion is you either killing one of the only truly innocent humans or you killing a sinner (and condemning that sinner to damnation) before it could have any chance at salvation. I think a lot of “moral” judgements about abortion do reflect a certain view of original sin, even if those making the judgments don’t “officially” have that view of original sin.

        Of course misogyny (“who cares about the woman’s health”) is a big part of it too.

      3. Emolee
        Emolee April 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

        Because mothers are expected to sacrifice everything for their children. This is an extreme and heartbreaking example of that – nevermind that she couldn’t even help her fetus by dying.

  11. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps April 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm |

    Scotland rules!

  12. Manasi
    Manasi April 17, 2013 at 6:26 am |

    Here in India this particular case got a lot of publicity. Particularly because in India abortion is largely associated with gendercide. The roots of female child being undesirable, a burden and thus better being dead in womb transcends religious, economic and social boundaries in shocking manner. The largely religious tone of abortion debate in US/ Europe is not a very familiar issue here.
    So, when Savita’s tragic case was reported widely, several people were shocked that in a woman would be denied a medical procedure which would have saved her life, in a western ( white=progressive) country where presumably such dark medieval practices of mixing medicine with ignorant prejudices is long dead!!! In a sad tragic way this case just goes on to show, yet again, how women everywhere are victims of same old shitty prejudices : however different they look on surface.

  13. 10G
    10G April 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

    UGH…..am going to try to controll my BPD-related rage about this issue and stick to the bottom line: this woman did not HAVE to die, the people who essentially killed her are responsible and they damn well KNOW it–and I have to wonder if they are proud of it (“We got ourselves rid of another damn WOMAN! Raise a pint, all!…er, sorry)….you know, doctors and that “God complex” thingy. At any rate, this poor woman suffered painfully, and deserves justice. I hope those involved are made to pay DEARLY. I kinda think God is in charge of Karma….;)

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