London: Irish President Michael D Higgins has intervened in the row over the inquiry into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar due to pregnancy-related complications after being denied abortion, saying the probe must meet the needs of her family as also the State.

Higgins' unprecedented move will increase the pressure on the government to recast the investigation in response to Savita's husband Praveen's demand for a full public probe.
        
The President said the investigation into Savita's death must ensure "above all else" that women will be safer and get the medical services during pregnancy to which they are entitled.

He was responding to questions from local journalists during an official visit to Liverpool and Manchester.

The inquiry to come into the tragic death of the young Indian woman must meet "the needs of the public's concern... the need of the family and meet the need of the State," he said.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on Wednesday published the terms of reference of its inquiry and named three new members, two Irish and one from England, of the inquiry team.

These replaced the Galway-based consultants who stepped aside in an unsuccessful attempt to meet the objections of Praveen.

The report to be compiled by the team will not identify staff members involved in the treatment of Savita or any other names, according to the terms of reference.
    
According to the Irish Times, government sources continued to insist that the HSE-commissioned inquiry announced this week, which is to be held in private, would go ahead as planned.

This is in spite of Praveen's refusal to co-operate and a threat of legal challenge by his lawyers if his wife's medical records are made available to the inquiry team.

"If they use those records then I will certainly be on to the data protection office and it may also involves bringing a court application by way of an injunction to restrain them from using those records," Praveen's solicitor Gerard O'Donnell said, Ireland's National Television and Radio Broadcaster, on Wednesday.


Labour Senator Ivan Bacik on Thursday said there was a "great deal of disquiet" among her party colleagues about the way the "inquiry has been handled" and the lack of trust which had arisen as the probe unfolded. “It will be very hard to see how inquiry can continue without the cooperation of the family”, she added.
     
Higgins' comments were "very diplomatically framed" and "timely," she said.
     
Minister for Health James Reilly conceded on Wednesday the HSE investigation could lack a "completeness of information" if Praveen maintains his refusal to cooperate.
     
Reilly's approach now is to seek an interim report from the investigation team before Christmas and then to decide what further action is needed.
    
Praveen repeated his lack of confidence in the HSE to carry out any investigation into his wife's death. "As these people are salaried by the HSE, we think that there would be some kind of bias during the investigation."

Savita had been 17 weeks pregnant and her husband says she repeatedly asked for a termination but was refused because a foetal heartbeat was present.

(Agencies)

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