Voices crying in the wilderness of misinformation

In view of the continuing and unrelenting barrage of international media misinformation surrounding the sad death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland – which the whole world must now know about – this view in Canada’s National Post, along with a useful post on a blog elsewhere, deserves further circulation.

The National Post comment is from Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform  and author of A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion. It covers some of the same ground – but in more detail – covered on November 23, 2012 by J.C. von Krempach, J.D in his Turtle Bay and Beyond blog.

Von Krempach observes how the world-wide pro-abortion warriors jumped on a story that may very well now crash around their ears – if there were any honest campers left in the world’s media organisations.

For the international abortion lo
bby, the whole story was just too convenient to be true: at the very moment when the Irish government is discussing controversial plans to liberalize abortion, a pregnant woman dies in an Irish hospital because she was denied an abortion that would have saved her life.

But what are the facts?

It now appears that the young woman did not die of a complication related to pregnancy. Her autopsy has revealed that she died of blood poisoning and E. coli ESBL, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium. E. coli ESBL has recently spread throughout the U.K., causing urinary tract infections which can develop into blood poisoning.

Once again, the abortion lobby has erected a monument to its own disingenuity, he comments.

Stephanie Gray in the National Post points out that the tragic deaths of Savita and her pre-born daughter Prasa  really make no case for legal abortion. She says that those across the world who say it does are overlooking an important piece of information recently reported in The Irish Times and The Guardian: an autopsy revealed that Halappanavar died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem” and E.coli ESBL.

Countless news reports are only talking about the septicaemia (i.e., blood poisoning), but few are discussing E.coli ESBL, which, incidentally enough, can lead to, you guessed it, septicaemia. Just what is E. coli ESBL? An antibiotic-resistant bacteria (not to be confused with regular strains of E. coli that cause food poisoning) that is associated with urinary tract infections (UTI). This strain of E. coli has been spreading in the UK  and last year two babies died in nearby Wales because of it. The presence of E. coli ESBL is particularly problematic if Halappanavar was given antibiotics to fight an infection that was resistant to those very antibiotics.

According to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, E. coli is one of the most common organisms to cause a UTI and complicated UTIs are frequently associated with pregnancy. They write, “The likelihood of treatment failure and serious complications, particularly the development of antimicrobial resistance, is more common in CUTI [complicated urinary tract infection].”

So instead of jumping to the conclusions that Halappanavar needed an abortion and that Ireland needs to legalize the killing of the youngest of its kind, the reasonable approach would be to get to the bottom of what Halappanavar’s condition was and examine how it was, or was not, responded to. We have yet to hear from the hospital and the medical professionals involved as to what precisely happened, but with this report of her dying from E. coli ESBL one wonders how killing Halappanavar’s baby Prasa would have killed the E. coli.

Is it possible that E. coli ESBL ascended her vagina and entered her uterus via the dilated cervix? Yes, that’s possible. But it’s also possible that her cervix dilated (thus initiating a miscarriage) because E. coli ESBL ascended her urinary tract and caused an infection in her kidneys, which can lead to uterine contractions, and if not treated, to cervical change.

So the infection could have been elsewhere in her body besides the uterus. Even if it was in the latter (a condition known as chorioamnionitis) then it is an ethical course of action to induce labour to eliminate this pathological and lethal condition (the presence of infected membranes) from her uterus. But that act itself wouldn’t have eliminated the E. coli ESBL if it actually originated in the urinary tract, which, if resistant to interventions like antibiotics, could have lead to the septicaemia.

And yet, The Toronto Star would have you believe “There’s a very simple reason why Savita died. It’s because she wasn’t listened to.” On the contrary, much more needs to be known about how she died. But what we do know is that jumping to the conclusion that abortion should be legalized in Ireland overlooks the underlying medical condition and makes the dangerous assumption that we need to kill one person to save another.

One thought on “Voices crying in the wilderness of misinformation

  1. Siobhan

    Very good article – clear & to the point….let’s hope the word gets out there amid all the ‘shrill irrational shrieking’ that is going on!!

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