The media, at least here in India, currently highlights a case which I wanted to write to you about. An Indian woman died of blood poisoning in a hospital in Ireland because doctors refused to abort her unborn baby although she was in extreme pain. The doctors’ reason: ‘This is a Catholic country.’ Let me explain the deathly combination of medicine and religion in this case.
The woman, Savita Halappanavar, was 17 weeks pregnant when she went to the hospital complaining of back pain. After an examination she got to know that she was having a miscarriage and that it would take just some hours. She still had horrible pain, though, and she and her husband thus asked the doctors to speed up the process by aborting the baby and thus relieving the woman of her pain.
This is now where the fatal problems started. The fetus still had a heartbeat and doctors told Savita and her husband that the law prevented them from carrying out an abortion, adding ‘This is a Catholic country’. Once the baby’s heartbeat stopped, they did it but it was already too late to save the mother’s life. She died in the hospital in which she had spent the last three days of her life in terrible pain.
Purnendu was the first to tell me about this case and my reaction was ‘No, that cannot be. You either misunderstood something or they are giving wrong information!’ I thought it was impossible that any country’s law could ignore the threat to the mother’s life in such a situation. The baby would not be able to survive without the mother, so why would they not try to save the mother’s life instead, regardless their religious belief? It was only after I had read four or five articles about this tragic event that I could really believe it.
There are of course still investigations going on as to what exactly happened and whose mistake it was but one can already read that there are issues with the law that is very strict in prohibiting abortions. There is actually the rule that allows an abortion in exactly that case that the mother’s life is in danger. The guidelines to that are however not clear and so doctors are either afraid of taking that decision because of fearing the law or they refuse to kill a fetus because of their rigid religious views that tell them this is a sin.
It doesn’t really matter what the investigations will show in the end, the reality is that religion has killed this woman. ‘This is a Catholic country’ was the argument. What a tragedy! Yes, this happened because of religion. Due to religion, a life is gone and that cannot be reversed.