Entries in Ireland (2)


Ireland Probes Death of Miscarrying Woman Seeking Abortion

PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A 31-year-old woman is dead after doctors in Ireland reportedly refused to give her an abortion as she languished in pain from an ongoing miscarriage.

Even as medically necessary abortions remain a contentious topic on this side of the Atlantic, doctors in the United States said the death was preventable.

"I don't do abortions, I'll tell you right now. ... But I'd have to tell the mother, 'Your baby doesn't have a chance and to save your life, I have to do this,'" said Dr. John Coppes, the medical director at Austin Medical Center-Mayo Health System in Minnesota.

Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, complaining of back pain, her husband told the Irish Times.  Doctors told Halappanavar she was miscarrying.

A day into her hospital stay, Halappanavar asked doctors to terminate the pregnancy because she was in "agony," her water had broken and she was shivering and vomiting.  However, they said they couldn't perform the operation if a fetal heartbeat was present because Ireland is a "Catholic country," Halappanavar's husband, told the Irish Times.

Abortion is illegal in Ireland unless a woman's life is in danger if she continues her pregnancy.

In the United States, a Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, made abortion safe and legal in 1973, but the abortion debate has continued to find its way into political discussions, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declaring himself a "pro-life president" in October after telling an Iowa newspaper he would not legislate on abortion if he won.

During a debate last month, Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said medical advances have eliminated the need to perform abortions to save ailing mothers' lives.  He quickly backtracked on the statements.

At the Galway University Hospital, Halappanavar's fetal heartbeat stopped nearly three days after she arrived on Oct. 21.  Doctors evacuated Halappanavar's uterus, but she died of septicemia, or blood poisoning, on Oct. 28, according the Irish Times, which cited the autopsy report.

The Galway Roscommon University Hospitals Group confirmed Halappanavar was a pregnant patient who died in its care.  It released a statement extending its sympathies to Halappanavar's husband and explaining that it would be reviewing the "unexpected death" as per the national incident management policy of Ireland's public health care provider, called Health Service Executive, or HSE.

"The process of incident review seeks to ascertain the facts relating to the incident, draw conclusions and make recommendations in relation to any steps that may need to be taken to prevent a similar incident occurring again," HSE said in a statement, adding that it will seek an external obstetrician to join its team of investigators.

Coppes, who has never met Halappanavar, said that when a woman's water, or amniotic sac, breaks during early pregnancy, she is at risk for infection because the barrier between the baby and the outside world is broken.  The fetus' environment is also no longer sterile, putting it at risk for "horrible malformations."

Coppes said the fact that Halappanavar's husband reported she was ill and vomiting suggested a serious infection had set in, and it's possible that it spread to her blood, resulting in the septicemia that killed her.

When an infection occurs in a pregnant woman's uterus, Dr. Kimberly Gecsi, an obstetrician at University Hospitals in Cleveland, said the only way to treat it is to terminate the pregnancy.

"Antibiotics are part of the process, but once an infection develops inside the uterus, antibiotics alone aren't going to treat the infection," Gecsi said.  "The infection will continue until the products of pregnancy are removed, either by natural procedure or with surgical procedure."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Irishman’s Death Ruled Spontaneous Combustion

Hemera/Thinkstock(GALWAY, Ireland) -- The death of a 76-year-old Irishman has been ruled a case of spontaneous combustion, the BBC reported.

Michael Faherty died in his home in December 2010. His body was badly burned, but a fire in the nearby fireplace did not cause the blaze, forensic experts said. Scorch marks on the ceiling above the body and the floor below, and no trace of accelerant, led the coroner to return the controversial verdict,  the first of its kind in Ireland, according to the BBC.

“This fire was thoroughly investigated and I’m left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation,” West Galway coroner Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin told a court Thursday.

Proposed explanations for spontaneous combustion range from static electricity to divine intervention. One theory, called the wick effect, paints a person’s clothes as a wick, of sorts, and their body fat as a fuel source. But the burning would take several hours, and many alleged victims have not tried to escape, the BBC reported. The wick-effect theory also fails to explain the absence of an ignition source or accelerant.

Some experts dismiss claims that such cases occur spontaneously, arguing instead that the flame’s source, such as a match or cigarette, must be masked by the badly burned body. But the mystery continues to captivate, as it has for centuries.

Charles Dickens described the haunting scene in his 1853 novel “Bleak House.”

“Here is a small burnt patch of flooring; here is the tinder from a little bundle of burnt paper, but not so light as usual, seeming to be steeped in something; and here is -- is it the cinder of a small charred and broken log of wood sprinkled with white ashes, or is it coal? Oh, horror, he IS here!”

In 1951, Mary Reeser, 67, burned to death in her Florida home. Only her skull, left foot and ashes remained. But her apartment was intact, save some soot on the ceilings and walls.

The police report claimed Reeser’s dressing gown had caught fire but no flame source or accelerant was found, the BBC reported.

Larry Arnold, author of “Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Combustion,” has three theories. The first posits that small, high-powered particles whizzing between the molecules of the body collide -- an event he calls “the Internal Hiroshima Effect.” The second suggests kundalini, a powerful energy flowing up and down the spine, becomes unbalanced, triggering a temperature spike. The third theory, based on the geographical clustering of alleged spontaneous combustion cases, credits the phenomenon to energy anomalies in the earth.

“Although I am constantly speculating about what could cause those patterns to manifest, at this point I have nothing I can take into a scientific laboratory and reproduce under controlled conditions,” Arnold wrote in a February 2011 report in Vice. “This is essentially why it’s so easy for the experts and the scientific orthodoxy to dismiss spontaneous human combustion. It is truly spontaneous.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio