Savita Halappanavar, who was found to be miscarrying when admitted, died of septicaemia at University Hospital Galway, via the Irish TimesAs if anyone needed further proof how reprehensible the Roman Catholic Church’s dogmatic approach toward women is, here’s one more sterling example. The Irish Times reports on a woman who died because a hospital’s allegiance to the R.C. Church was stronger than its desire to keep her alive (WebCite cached article):

Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Sadly, this proved to too late for Ms Halappanavar; she died of septicemia a few days later.

I’m not sure, but I don’t think University Hospital Galway is Catholic Church-owned or -operated. So this might not be a case where the Church directly and on its own orders caused Ms Halappanavar’s death. Nevertheless, even if it’s not, Catholicism taught the fiercely dogmatic medical philosophy which was applied here, so Church culpability is unavoidable.

I have to ask all of you supposedly “pro-life” Catholics out there who are proud to trumpet that “all life is sacred” and that’s why you militate against any and all kinds of abortion: Please explain how and why your Church’s policy, in this case, did anything to protect “life”? In the name of protecting a dying fetus — which you claim is a “life” than must be saved — you ended up losing both that fetus and the mother who carried it. So whose “life,” here, was protected? I want to know how that “pro-life” policy works, when by your own definitions of “life,” two lives were lost in this case, one inevitably, the other needlessly.

I dare you to explain this. Really. Honest. If you truly believe your Church’s doctrines have any veracity, and if you’re secure in your “pro-life” beliefs, then you should have no problem doing so. So go ahead. Do it. The comment box below is available for you, so get to work and explain this. If you dare.*

Note that this event puts the lie to (now lame-duck) Rep. Joe Walsh’s claim that medical advances have made it so that it’s never necessary to abort a fetus in order to save a woman’s life. We all knew he was talking out his misogynistic, religiofascist ass when he made that comment, but this example provides verifiable, incontrovertible — and horrific — evidence that he was absolutely wrong.

*Appeals to ignorance … such as the old & tired “it’s a mystery” or “God works in mysterious ways” … will not suffice, so don’t insult me by offering anything like that. Those clichés aren’t explanations of the benefits of Catholic doctrine. They’re just admissions of ignorance, and falling back on them betrays a lack of desire to provide an explanation.

Photo credit: Irish Times.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith & Friendly Atheist.

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  • Donna

    I think that is a sad story, but I know for a fact most mothers would put their own lives on the line to protect their children. If a mother puts her own life ahead of her unborn child is that any more admirable? For those who have faith don't cling desperately to life, they accept God's plan for them and if they are called to heaven early it saves living a difficult and unpleasant life on this earth where good and evil coexist.
    Also in light of the part of the article where you can't be sure or in fact revoke the accusation that it was directly related to the church I think it would be appropriate to re-word the title.
    Thank you for reading my comments 🙂

    • Re: "If a mother puts her own life ahead of her unborn child is that any more admirable?"

      If she does, bully for her! That's great! It was her choice, and she can make it. However, the operative word here is "choice." Unfortunately, Ms Halappanavar didn't have any "choice" in the matter. None at all. She was doomed the moment her pregnancy ran into trouble … and she had absolutely no say whatever in her fate. So your observation is noted, but is irrelevant to this case.

      Re: "Also in light of the part of the article where you can't be sure or in fact revoke the accusation that it was directly related to the church I think it would be appropriate to re-word the title."

      I have no intention of changing the blog title because it's not misleading or inappropriate at all. In fact, I explained why, within the post itself:

      I'm not sure, but I don't think University Hospital Galway is Catholic Church-owned or -operated. So this might not be a case where the Church directly and on its own orders caused Ms Halappanavar's death. Nevertheless, even if it's not, Catholicism taught the fiercely dogmatic medical philosophy which was applied here, so Church culpability is unavoidable.

      So I will repeat: While Ms Halappanavar wasn't executed directly on the orders of some priest or bishop, she did die because Church doctrine was the law of the land in Ireland. Hence, the Church bears responsibility for it. It doesn't work any other way.

  • Donna

    The title is important as not everyone will read the post in full. I'm glad you replied to my comments, I am concerned that the story is possibly not being reported fairly.
    If it turns out that the surgeon or doctor acted and commented without the authority of the church then he must be responsible for his own actions and views. It comes across as there are a lot of assumptions being made.
    It would be comparable to saying all musilems are extremists or terrorists.
    Also there would be a responsibility on your part to investigate the views of the hospital authorities to see if they stand by the decisions made by the doctor.
    Also I am sure that hospitals can't hold you against your will, so in New Zealand where I live (not Ireland) if I was extremely unhappy with decisions relating to my health I would demand a second opinion or transfer to another hospital which are choices.
    I would be interested to see if you are able to investigate more on this story as a whole.
    I know a good percentage of catholics really respect other people's choices even if they are not in keeping with their own. Everybody should have free will and in my own opinion it would be more productive to pray privately for someone who goes against the teaching of the church than to force them.
    Looking forward to your response 🙂

    • Re: "The title is important as not everyone will read the post in full."

      True enough, which is why the title is remaining as it is. It's accurate, because Catholic doctrine is responsible for a woman's preventable death. That's just how it is.

      Re: "I'm glad you replied to my comments, I am concerned that the story is possibly not being reported fairly."

      "Fairness" is subjective. All I can do is report based on the facts here. In this case, Catholic doctrine is responsible for a woman's preventable death.

      Re: "If it turns out that the surgeon or doctor acted and commented without the authority of the church then he must be responsible for his own actions and views."

      We've already been over this. Twice now, in the post and in my earlier comment-reply, I have said the question here is not whether the Church had direct "authority" or command over the situation. It doesn't seem that that was the case. But direct command and authority are not relevant here. The R.C. Church demanded that the law of Ireland reflect its doctrine, and it got its wish. It's here where the problem lies.

      Re: "It would be comparable to saying all musilems are extremists or terrorists."

      Not at all. I never said "all Catholics" are responsible for this preventable death. What I did say … and continue to stand behind … is that Catholic doctrine is responsible for it. Given that we were dealing with rule of law here, it's not even a question of what individuals did; they were constrained by the legal system and only were able to act in certain ways. What we are dealing with, are three considerations: 1. It's all well and good to state a principle, such as that abortion must be banned, but sometimes rules like that can be taken too far, and/or have terrible, unintended consequences; and 2. Given this, it's time to review whether or not the law of any given land ought to be dictated by intractible metaphysical dictates that don't necessarily work very well in the real world; and 3. Again, given the peril here, when are Catholics themselves going to admit that maybe … just maybe! … there's something wrong with their doctrines, such that maybe … just maybe! … they need to be fixed?

      These are all uncomfortable questions, but I don't care about anyone's discomfort. People dying needlessly ought, by all rights, to make everyone uncomfortable. Mature adults will gird themselves up and deal with the discomfort. The immature will simper and whine that they're being picked on, and the sanctimoniously immature will come up with ridiculous excuses for avoiding the discomfort and rage and fume that someone is depriving them of their "religious freedom."

      Re: "Also I am sure that hospitals can't hold you against your will, so in New Zealand where I live (not Ireland) if I was extremely unhappy with decisions relating to my health I would demand a second opinion or transfer to another hospital which are choices."

      So you're saying a perilously ill woman hospitalized in Ireland and prevented from having a trouble pregnancy that put her life at risk, was supposed to have somehow evacuated herself to some other country, I assume at great expense, in order to avoid certain doom? Are you sure you want to lay this at her door, and not at the door of the Church and other policy-makers who laid the foundations for the situation she ended up in?

      Re: "I would be interested to see if you are able to investigate more on this story as a whole."

      It's not up to me to "investigate" it any more than I have. Either you can deal with the facts as stated, or … as it apparent … you can't. Either way, it's your choice, not mine, and it's not my job to help you.

      Re: "I know a good percentage of catholics really respect other people's choices even if they are not in keeping with their own."

      So do I, but a lot of Catholics tend to hew to their Church's doctrines, without considering the unintended consequences of
      those doctrines. This case provides a stark example of how those doctrines can have detrimental ramifications. Either Catholics can accept that, and deal with them, or they can't.

      Re: "Everybody should have free will and in my own opinion it would be more productive to pray privately for someone who goes against the teaching of the church than to force them."

      Which is why strict anti-abortion laws, such as they have in Ireland and as the Religious Right wants imposed on the U.S., are detrimental. They take away the freedom of women of child-bearing age and render them slaves to their own physiology. If you want everyone to have "free will" then you ought, by all rights, to be agitating against this situation. Pray if you want, but don't doom women to certain death merely because they have problem pregnancies.

  • Dingo Berserk

    The tragic death of the Indian dentist triggered off an avalanche of letters to the national 'quality' newspaper, The Irish Times, which lasted several months. Opinions were sharply divided between those who were radically opposed to all terminations (the so-called 'pro-lifers'), and the more liberal letter-writers who accepted that women must be given a right to choose (the so-called 'pro-choicers'). A frequent theme among the latter was the blatant hypocrisy of a society who pretends to be unaware that thousands of Irish women travel to Great Britain each year to be able to terminate their pregnancy. But one feature was glaringly absent from ALL letters: the impelling need for Irish young people to be encouraged, and taught, to take precautions during sex, so as to avoid the risk of unwanted pregnancies! This is mainly caused by the rigid, illogical church doctrine which, in the same breath, condemns abortion and yet, by also condemning safe contraception, places couples in a continuing 'Vatican roulette' predicament which, so often, results in unwanted pregnancies.

    • You're correct that there's a lot of religionistic foolishness at play here, which has gone "under the radar" as it were. Here in the 'States we contend with a Religious Right which focuses on "abstinence-only" sex education. While they're technically correct that the only sure way to not become pregnant (or not make someone else pregnant) is to abstain from sex, the truth is that, with a sufficiently large adolescent population, it's unreasonable to expect they'll all comply, making this a short-sighted policy. And the results are real: IIRC teen pregnancies are more frequent in states where "abstinence-only" is more likely to be taught.

      It's much better to give students all the tools they need to deal with life. For better or worse, contraception is one of them. Whether or not one personally dislikes it, can't make this untrue. So we see here that people's subjective determinations are having a detrimental effect on others' real lives … and that just needs to stop already.