As someone who strongly believes that one life is no more or no less valuable than any other, I sought to discover what the standard of practice actually is in cases like that of Savita Halappanavar. Of course with so little known about her case, I sought answers based on the scenario that Savita tragically suffered from second trimester septic inevitable miscarriage. In this scenario, what are the standards of care, and what do obstetricians believe and practice? A pair of experienced Senior Obstetricians from MaterCare International wrote their response,
MaterCare agrees with the opinion of Dr John Bonnar, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology who explained, in 2000, to an all party Irish parliamentary Committee considering abortion; “In current obstetrical practice rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention is required at a stage in pregnancy when there will be little or no prospect for the survival of the baby, due to extreme immaturity. In these exceptional situations failure to intervene may result in the death of both the mother and baby. We consider that there is a fundamental difference between abortion carried out with the intention of taking the life of the baby, for example for social reasons, and the unavoidable death of the baby resulting from essential treatment to protect the life of the mother”.
Such an approach is justified ethically by the Principle of Double Effect, (a time honoured principle based on Aristotelian principles), which states that is morally permissible to carry out a procedure that has two effects, one good and the other bad which are practically inseparable.
Was Savita Halappanavar a victim of malpractice? I think there is certainly a strong possibility, but I would agree that there is indeed a very big difference between inducing labour in an attempt to save the lives of both mother and child and performing an abortion, which does not attempt or lend itself to the possibility of saving the life of the child.