An announcement in this regard was made by Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Parliament barely within hours of unveiling of a seven-member team to probe the tragic death. Savita's husband Praveen Halappanavar had earlier refused to talk to the investigators, saying he would not consent to their viewing his wife's medical records as three of the Galway hospital's senior doctors were part of the team.
"The three doctors will not be part of the investigation and therefore different personnel who are competent, who are experienced and who have no connection to Galway University Hospital will be appointed," Kenny said. Kenny said that the doctors will be replaced by officials who have "no connection at all" with the Galway hospital to ensure that the probe remains "utterly independent".
The decision was taken "to have regard for the traumatic effect on Savita's husband and family and in the greater public interest at large", Kenny said, adding that the move, by no way, "impugns the integrity" of the doctors. He expressed hope that the investigation will be able to ascertain the truth, facts and circumstances surrounding the "very tragic" death of Savita.
"A man's wife has died. Nothing will bring her back. But it is important for our country, for our people, for the family, for everybody concerned to ascertain the truth of what happened here. And this investigation can hopefully do that with the cooperation of Mr Halappanavar," Kenny said. Savita's husband Praveen did not immediately respond to the decision.
Praveen had previously faulted the Irish probe on the ground that it was not going to be a public inquiry involving witnesses testifying under oath. In an interview with The Irish Times, he had said he doubted Ireland would have done anything public had he not spoken out. Praveen said he received no communication from the hospital and Health Services Executive during the two weeks following his wife's death.
"It is a pity because I thought Ireland would care more for someone so young who died. That let me down. Maybe Savita was born to change the laws here," he said. Probe team's head Sabaratnam Arulkumaran had earlier hoped of a face-to-face meeting with Praveen to persuade him change his mind about talking to investigators as his testimony on his wife's care would be central to identifying problems. Savita Halappanavar, 31, died from blood poisoning at University Hospital Galway on Oct 28 after doctors allegedly refused to perform an abortion stating "this is a Catholic country" where this was not permitted.
The case highlighted Ireland's failure to ensure implementation of the 1992 Supreme Court judgement allowing abortion in cases where pregnancy places lives at risk. The court had found this should be the only exception to Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion. Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights had also ruled that Ireland was placing pregnant women in jeopardy by not providing a clear law defining when life-saving abortions can be performed.
The government, however, insists on not presenting any abortion legislation until probe into Savita's death is completed in February. It also vowed to block an opposition bill unveiled yesterday seeking Parliament's immediate approval of the 1992 Supreme Court judgement.