Notes and Comment Blog

It’s not “Western”

Apr 12th, 2013 11:48 am | By

Sometimes it’s hard not to diagnose self-hating [whatever] when reading the more vicious reactions to Femen’s protest about Amina Tyler. There’s one by Susan Carland on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics site, for example.

It is admittedly difficult for people who have bought into Western liberalism, with its elevation of individual freedom to the pinnacle of human moral evolution, to regard the Muslim world with anything other than baffled contempt.

Oh yes those crazy deluded people who have “bought into” liberalism. (Calling it “Western” liberalism is itself an insult to all non-Westerners. It’s not “Western.” See Amartya Sen for more on this, or Kwame Anthony Appiah, or any human rights activists in non-Western countries ffs.) It’s a pity more people haven’t “bought into” liberalism, because if they had then abuses of human rights wouldn’t be such a commonplace.

And what an ignorant description. She seems to have liberalism confused with Randian libertarianism.

Fighting sexism can only be powerful while operating coherently in its cultural context. Tunisian women often take to the streets in large numbers to protest against what they see as curtailing of their freedom by the government. In Egypt, the group Tahrir Bodyguards, comprised of men and women, was formed to offer women free self-defence classes against sexual harassment and to patrol the streets in order to help protect women against assault in the face of an indifferent government.

Yes, and? Governments do curtain freedoms; groups other than Tahrir Bodyguards assaulted women. In other words, no “cultural context” is monolithic; any “cultural context” includes disagreement and conflict, so what is her point? She dislikes and disagrees with Femen, fine, but it doesn’t follow that she’s any more clued in about the “cultural context” in question than they are.

This would matter to Femen if they were genuinely interested in helping to improve the situation for women in countries like Tunisia, where female employment is low, laws and norms restrict women’s access to employment and mobility, and domestic violence is common. But despite all of Femen’s attention-seeking claims, it is abundantly clear that their outrage is not about feminism. It is certainly not about women’s advancement in the Middle East. This is prejudice, racism and imperialism, dressed up in the apparently scant clothing of women’s rights.

And that’s where she gets just plain vicious. How the hell does she know that? Imperialism? On the basis of what? She sounds unpleasantly similar to the anti-abortion fanatics who have been flooding the discussion of the Savita Halippanavar inquest on Twitter with endless dark accusations of not giving a shit about Savita but simply wanting abortion, for its own sake.

Moreover, it is apparent that Femen’s outrage isn’t even about Amina. For all the scrawling of “Free Amina” on their adamantly bared breasts and the fulminating against threats of stoning and incarceration in a psychiatric asylum, little of this is based in reality. Amina’s lawyer, herself a Tunisian women’s rights activist, has confirmed that Amina was never in a mental institution (she was being kept at home with her family), she was not charged with any offence, and even if Amina were to be charged, the maximum sentence would be six months in jail for public indecency, not stoning.

So that’s all right then? Six months in jail? For nothing?

So, if not for Amina, or women in the Middle East, who is this protest for? In truth, it is just a convenient vehicle for organisations like Femen to reveal their true, Islamophobic colours. This was about the arrogant belief that a certain breed of feminism is the ultimate goal and that anyone who disagrees is to be aggressively condemned, dismissed and scorned – including the very Muslim women who work day after day against sexism in countries like Tunisia.

Says Susan Carland, revealing her true, liberalismophobic colors. It’s not “arrogant” to think that a particular way of doing things is better than others; Carland herself is arguing just that. She’s chosen the wrong one, that’s all.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“In my city nearly all the hospitals are run by religious organizations”

Apr 12th, 2013 10:42 am | By

I’m not sure the best way to start an opinion piece is announcing your own longstanding boredom with the subject, and yet how often one sees that very thing – as in Chris Orlet’s sparkling-fresh commentary on (groan) the new atheists in the American Spectator.

I long ago lost interest in the God Wars, the bombastic clashes between Christians and the New Atheists over whether the Man Upstairs exists, whether He is good or evil, whether Judeo-Christianity has been a blessing or a curse. Put simply, whether Christopher Hitchens is resting in peace or roasting on a spit.

Oh haha, it’s all so funny, such a weary joke. Why is that then? Why are we supposed to simply take it for granted that criticism of religion and theism is wrongheaded and adolescent? No really, why? It’s not as if religion makes nothing happen! It’s not as if it’s just obviously defanged and harmless, let alone obviously beneficial and without bad side effects.

And as for adolescent, how cheap is that stupid cheap shot in the last sentence?

Today, when I hear snide comments from atheists – who often assume I too am an unbeliever because my knuckles do not drag the ground – I spontaneously slip into Defender of the Faith mode. I wait patiently while he (for it is almost always a he) rants about the Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, the pedophile priest scandals, the pope’s silence during the Holocaust, and a thousand years of Jewish pogroms.

Well that’s enormously big of him, isn’t it. Note the same assumption, made slightly more explicit – all that is so passé, so uncool to talk about. Why? Why would it be?

And by the way no it’s not almost always a he. Hello “it’s more of a guy thing” yet again.

He admits all that, he says generously, but there’s more to it.

How, for instance, can one overlook the role faith communities have played in health care? In my city nearly all the hospitals are run by religious organizations like the St. Louis-based Franciscan Sisters of Mary, who operate 18 nonprofit hospitals in four states, partner with more than 40 rural hospitals, and run two nursing homes. The Mercy Health Ministry, also headquartered here, operates 28 hospitals throughout Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. (Fly-over states. Who cares, right?) Franciscan nuns also founded nearby St. Anthony’s Hospital, while the Jesuits run a local medical school whose doctors treat mostly inner-city patients.

Oh jeezis that’s a terrifying fact, and he doesn’t even realize it. He doesn’t even realize that this is not benevolence or charity but a takeover, and a way to impose religious rules on helpless captive people. This is the only way the Catholic church can force its stinking theocratic anti-human rules on unwilling people: by grabbing up all the hospitals. It’s horrifying that Orlet is ignorant enough of the consequences that he boasts of the completeness of the takeover. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt in assuming it’s ignorance as opposed to deliberate indifference.

Perhaps the largest provider of social service programs in our area is Catholic Charities. What do they do? What don’t they do? Their programs provide shelter, counseling, and education to battered women, as well as treatment to women with addictions and mental illness. Their professional counseling agencies offer education and mental health services. There is day and residential treatment for troubled youth, including diagnosis, treatment, education, and healthcare. For families, Catholic Charities provides expectant parent counseling, and foster care, adoption, and residential services.

All of it Catholic. Notice that it apparently doesn’t even cross his mind that Catholic “counseling and education” to battered women might have some flaws, as might all the rest of the services he lists.

I am still waiting for a single atheist group to open a hospital or school, offer free health clinics, beds for the homeless, food for the hungry, or transportation for the elderly. I have yet to see worshipers of the flying spaghetti monster establish a prison ministry or send their members overseas to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

The issue isn’t atheist groups, it’s secular groups, and of course there are secular groups that do all those things. Apparently Orlet prefers his charities to have theistic strings attached.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

About what’s appropriate behaviour

Apr 11th, 2013 5:29 pm | By

Then there’s Rehtaeh Parsons.

Why do teenage rapists post pictures of themselves raping someone on the internet? Just because they can?

Well, that, plus the fact that their brains haven’t finished developing yet, and the frontal cortex is where you get impulse control and all that.

But even so. All this random meanness and cruelty floating around…it’s the worst thing about the internet, and it’s just fucking toxic.

We need an even simpler rule. “Don’t be shitty” – something like that. When in doubt, don’t be shitty. If you blurt something out in a heated moment, take it back or apologize or at the very least stop there. Don’t draw targets on people and then follow them around forever after.

Reteah’s death comes on the heels of Steubenville, Ohio and months after British Columbia’s tragic Amanda Todd case — the Canadian teenager who tragically took her own life last October. This repetitive tale is exhaustingly familiar: young guys do something terrible to a teenage girl, in person and cyber-bullying ensues, then the guys get away with it unscathed (unless Anonymous and/or the Ohio courts get involved).

Yeh that’s not a good pattern.

Then there’s the fact Rehtaeh’s bullying is considered a “community issue” by Nova Scotia’s justice minister. According to him: “As a community, we need to have more dialogue with our young people about respect and about support to educate our young boys and our young girls about what’s appropriate behaviour, what’s not appropriate behaviour.”

This begs a second question, since when is young boys taking a picture of a rape of a 15-year-old girl and then distributing it considered an issue for the community to handle?

Should be raises a second question, but never mind – yes what? Rape and then passing around photos of the rape – that’s more than bullying. It’s not something to have a “dialogue” about.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The consequences can be serious for patients

Apr 11th, 2013 5:07 pm | By

Merger Watch is on it.

The MergerWatch Project

We believe that in medical care, the patient’s rights must come first.

Across the United States, community hospitals are merging with other hospitals or health systems to relieve financial stress. When the merger is with a religiously-sponsored health system that uses doctrine to restrict care, the consequences can be serious for patients.

That’s for damn sure.

What they do is repair work though. I want to work on the “this is totally unacceptable” part. I want to get religion the fuck out of health care, period.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Busted for refusing to leave his ill partner’s bedside

Apr 11th, 2013 12:03 pm | By

Sigh. Another win for being mean.

A gay man was arrested this week at a Missouri hospital after refusing to the leave bedside of his sick partner.

Roger Gorley went to Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday to visit Allen, his partner of five years. But when he got there, a member of Allen’s family asked him to leave, according to Kansas City Fox station WDAF. When Gorley refused, hospital security allegedly handcuffed him and forcefully removed him from the premises. Now he cannot visit Allen at all because of a restraining order filed against him.

Whoever that member of Allen’s family was – boooo to you. That’s horribly mean. Don’t do that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Wait until the woman is on the edge of death

Apr 11th, 2013 11:34 am | By

Let’s look at a little more

Some Catholic hospitals, contrary to the opinion of leading Catholic ethicists and theologians, apply the Directives to prohibit doctors from providing any treatment to a woman having a miscarriage if there are still fetal heart tones, even when a doctor has determined that nothing can be done to save the pregnancy and the woman’s health is placed at risk by delaying immediate treatment. These hospitals will require that doctors withhold treatment until there are no fetal heart tones, or there are specific indications that a woman’s life is at risk, such as the onset of a serious infection.

You see? Or there are specific indications that a woman’s life is at risk, such as the onset of a serious infection. That’s what happened in Savita’s case. There were specific indications, and by that time it was too god damn late.

Catholic hospitals shouldn’t be making that decision; the patients should. No hospitals should be making that decision. No hospitals should be prohibiting doctors from providing any treatment to a woman having a miscarriage if there are still fetal heart tones. Their patient is the woman and it’s their job to treat her.

Some hospitals will transfer the patient elsewhere for medical treatment if the woman’s life is not yet at risk, despite the current threats to her health. As shown in the Study, some hospitals will allow treatment only after doctors perform additional unnecessary viability tests, despite doctors’ existing medical certainty that the fetus is not viable. In these cases patients are being denied emergency care to which they are legally entitled, as further described below.

No hospital has any business doing that. That’s not what hospitals are for. They’re not there for the purpose of making a display of their religious morality, they’re there to treat patients.

In the US Catholic hospitals are buying up secular hospitals at an increasing rate. This is appallingly dangerous.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Another leader topples

Apr 11th, 2013 10:31 am | By

Pausing for a touch of levity…a postmodernist plagiarist reactionary chief rabbi. That’s what I call covering all the bases!

The chief rabbi of France has resigned after admitting to plagiarism in two books and to deception about his academic credentials.

The Paris Central Consistory, the top Jewish religious organisation in France, announced Gilles Bernheim’s resignation but gave no further details.

Bernheim, 60, a modern Orthodox Jew who was elected to the seven-year post in 2008, was respected by other religious leaders as an active participant in interfaith dialogue. His booklet opposing the government’s plan to legalise same-sex marriage won praise from the former pope Benedict.

Ahhh isn’t that sweet – an interfaith dude who opposes same-sex marriage and gets praise from Ratzinger. And plagiarizes.

Last month a blogger accused him of copying a 1996 text by the late French post-modernist philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard for use in his book Forty Jewish Meditations, published in 2011. After initially denying the report, Bernheim later admitted that Lyotard had written the disputed passage.

I deny it! I say the passage was written by Derrida.

Last week another blogger accused Bernheim of plagiarism in an earlier book, published in 2002, and L’Express magazine revealed that Bernheim had not earned the prestigious title of philosophy professor that was often attached to his name.

Ok but he really authentically does oppose same-sex marriage.




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Not later but now

Apr 11th, 2013 10:17 am | By

To repeat: it can happen here. Already, now. We don’t have to wait for “personhood” laws; it can happen now.

If it is determined that nothing can be done that would allow the woman to continue her pregnancy, the established standard of care for unstable patients who are miscarrying is an immediate surgical uterine evacuation. In the case of such a patient, immediate uterine evacuation reduces the patient’s risk of complications, including blood loss, hemorrhage, infection, and the loss of future fertility. A delay in treatment may subject a woman to unnecessary blood transfusions, risk of infection, hysterectomy or even death.

That’s clear enough, I think.

Some Catholic hospitals, contrary to the opinion of leading Catholic ethicists and theologians, apply the Directives to prohibit doctors from providing any treatment to a woman having a miscarriage if there are still fetal heart tones, even when a doctor has determined that nothing can be done to save the pregnancy and the woman’s health is placed at risk by delaying immediate treatment.

And so is that.

This is now. It’s not the future, it’s not hypothetical; it’s now, and it happens.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Expedite, already

Apr 11th, 2013 9:40 am | By

It’s good that someone is paying attention. The European Court of Human Rights is.

A  report from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Committee of Ministers published yesterday has called on the [Irish] Government to implement legislation to deal with abortion.

So that women won’t be refused medically indicated abortions because doctors and hospitals are afraid of prosecution.

In its sixth annual report, Supervision of theExecution of Judgments and Decisions of the ECHR, the committee of ministers urged the Government to “expedite” the implementation of the A, B and C judgment on abortion, delivered by the ECHR in 2010.

The judgment is included in a list of cases requiring “enhanced supervision” to ensure implementation.

The A, B and C judgment found the absence of any implementing legislative or regulatory regime which provided an “accessible and effective procedure” to establish the “possibilities for a lawful abortion where there is a risk to the mother’s life” was in breach of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Let’s hope Ireland’s government is listening.

The committee said “the general prohibition on abortion in criminal law constitutes a significant chilling factor for women and doctors due to the risk of criminal conviction and imprisonment”. It “invited the Irish authorities to take all necessary measures”, to implement the judgment.

As Dr Astbury has just been confirming.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“Muslimah Pride”

Apr 10th, 2013 5:32 pm | By

Sofia Ahmed of “Muslimah Pride” does not like Femen. She has reasons.

What Femen are doing is highly counterproductive and detrimental to Muslim women across the world.  For me and hundreds of other women who have got in touch with me over the past few days, their tactics are a part of the ideological war that is going on between neo-colonial elements in the West and Islamic societies. Their aim is not to emancipate us from our presumed slavery, but instead reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.

That “for me and hundreds of other women” is interesting, since it’s followed by a factual claim as opposed to an interpretation. “For me,” she says, the aim of Femen is to reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.”

You know what? I don’t believe a word of that. I don’t believe that is Femen’s aim.

It seemed that many other Muslim women across the world agreed with my stance and what followed was a defiant and vocal rejection of Femen’s invitation. Instead of ‘getting naked’ Muslim women from across the world tweeted and uploaded pictures of themselves to Facebook in their hijabs, niqabs, and western attire. They held up signs telling the world why they were proud of their identities and did not need racist Islamophobic women to dictate to them on how they should dress.

Instead they needed a made-up god and a long-dead “prophet” and a bunch of male clerics to dictate to them on how they should dress. Is that it?

Oh, is that racist Islamophobic of me? No, it fucking isn’t. I don’t despise all these bullying rules about women and veils and bags and tents, haram and halal and go back inside, because they’re racial, I despise them because they’re bad in themselves.

In our open letter to Femen we referred to them as ‘colonial feminists’ to describe Femen’s activities.  I believe it is the most apt term to describe their particular brand of feminism. From Helen of Troy, the face that launched a thousand ships, to the pretext of female liberation surrounding the invasion of Afghanistan, women have always been used as pawns by men as an excuse to wage war. Femen are just the latest chapter in the long history of gender imperialists that manufacture consent and provide ideological foregrounding to justify going to war. By dismissing the role of western countries in the oppression of Muslim women and focusing solely on Muslim men they are only working to demonise Islam, not liberate Muslim women.

That’s pathetic. She would have at least a semblance of a case if she said Femen are playing into the hands of people who want to justify going to war (but who the hell is keen to go to war right now?), but to say they’re doing that themselves? Please.

She’s swallowed a keg of jargon and that’s all she’s got – the familiar phrases come out one after the other.

Femen’s reliance on the overused media tropes of the modern western values versus traditional Muslim values is creating a dichotomous representation of the ‘self’ (West) and ‘other’ (Muslims)…Frantz Fanon…The hyper-sexualisation of Femen’s campaign and the insistence on Muslim women to strip naked as a gesture of emancipation is  a tell-tale symptom of Orientalist fantasies…Femen’s universal imposition of the neocolonial agenda… Femen have continued to display a flagrant disregard for our agency and have consistently tried to downplay the legitimacy of our collective voices. Femen have tried to dismiss our campaign using conspiracy and conjecture…

Conspiracy and conjecture! Look again at your first paragraph before you accuse other people of that.

The Ex-Muslims forum on Twitter are arguing with Muslimah Pride a good deal.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

How creepy is that

Apr 10th, 2013 4:32 pm | By

Via Ex-Muslims Forum on Twitter @CEMB_forum


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

On Qatar Airways Flight QR76

Apr 10th, 2013 3:35 pm | By

More on Jackie Nanyonjo and what was done to her.

Jackie was a fighter for herself and for others: a lesbian who escaped from anti-gay persecution and a brutal forced marriage, and a member of the Movement for Justice. In Britain she had been able for the first time to live and love openly as a lesbian; she was much-loved by a wide circle of friends who kept in touch with her after she was deported and who miss her deeply.

I suppose I should say trigger warning at this point. What happened to her is not comfortable reading.

With all the limited avenues of Britain’s racist immigration laws closed to her and facing deportation to a country where it is a crime to be gay and where the political and religious leaders have whipped up a murderous anti-gay witch-hunt, Jackie’s only option was physical resistance. On 10th January, on Qatar Airways Flight QR76, Jackie fought bravely for her freedom with all the strength she could gather against four Reliance guards. She continued fighting when the guards drew curtains round their end of the plane to hide their crimes. She struggled for as long as she could until, beaten up, half strangled and bent double, she was overcome by the pain in her chest and neck and was unable to breathe.

When Jackie arrived at Entebbe Airport the ‘escort’ party handed her over to the Ugandan authorities, who held her for many more hours without any medical attention. When family members finally met her, long after the flight had landed, Jackie was in terrible pain and vomiting blood; they rushed her to a clinic, but in a country with widespread poverty and limited medical facilities they were unable to get the medical attention Jackie needed. Since Jackie was in hiding as a known lesbian, protected by relatives, every trip to a doctor or hospital involved a risk to her life and to the safety of her family. They were condemned to watch the agonising decline of Jackie’s health and strength over the next two months.

I’m not an expert on asylum, but deporting gay people to Uganda does seem like an unfortunate policy…

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It can and does happen here

Apr 10th, 2013 3:12 pm | By

I’ve said this before, but it needs saying often. People don’t realize that it’s not just Ireland. It can happen here too, and it does. The National Women’s Law Center did a report on it two years ago.

A serious but little known problem is putting women’s health and lives at risk: because of their religious beliefs, certain health care providers do not give appropriate treatment to women experiencing serious pregnancy complications. A recent study by Ibis Reproductive Health entitled “Assessing hospital polices & practices regarding ectopic pregnancy & miscarriage management”  [1]  adds to the growing evidence that the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services have been applied to deny women experiencing both ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages the treatment and information to which they are legally entitled.

Like Savita, you see. Not just Ireland, you see.

Catholic-affiliated hospitals are governed by the Directives, which provide guidance. Most individuals and even many health providers presume that the Directives’ prohibition on the provision of a range of abortion services applies only to non-emergency pregnancy terminations of otherwise viable pregnancies. But the Study is consistent with anecdotal accounts that provide strong evidence that some hospitals and health care providers have interpreted the Directives to prohibit prompt, medically-indicated treatment of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy, placing women’s lives and health at additional and unnecessary risk, and violating the laws intended to protect patients from such serious lapses in care.

And oh look – how very familiar.

In some of the miscarriage cases described in the Ibis Study, the standard of care requires immediate treatment. Yet doctors practicing at Catholic-affiliated hospitals were forced to delay treatment while performing medically unnecessary tests. Even though these miscarriages were inevitable and no medical treatment was available to save the fetus, some patients were transferred because doctors could still detect a fetal heartbeat or required to wait until there was no longer a fetal heartbeat to provide the needed medical care.

You see? That’s Savita. It’s that simple. It happens here, too.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Mo is too busy being awesome

Apr 10th, 2013 2:52 pm | By

Mo is annoyed about the western colonial feminists.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Usually in an attempt to make trouble

Apr 10th, 2013 2:35 pm | By

Paul Krugman thinks it’s not particularly reasonable to make comments on the internet while pretending to be Paul Krugman.

I do think that it’s kind of curious that I’ve had repeated incidents in which people pretend to be me, usually in an attempt to make trouble. Is my real output so hard to criticize that people looking for a way to discredit me have to make stuff up?

And for that matter doesn’t making stuff up kind of defeat the purpose?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Jackie Nanyonjo

Apr 10th, 2013 1:40 pm | By

This is a terrible thing.

Very sad news tonight that a member of Movement for Justice, Jackie Nanyonjo, has died in Uganda last friday due to injuries she sustained during deportation from Yarl’s Wood 2 months ago.


This is another one of those stories that are under the radar.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Wednesday at the inquest

Apr 10th, 2013 8:40 am | By

Fergal Bowers reporting for RTE, again.

The consulting obstetrician said there were system failures.

Dr Katherine Astbury said Mrs Halappanavar’s clinical signs were not checked every four hours after her membranes ruptured, which was a breach of hospital policy.

She told the inquest that when Mrs Halappanavar requested a termination from her on the morning of 23 October, she outlined the legal position to her.

She said that Mrs Halappanavar had told her she was finding it very upsetting and difficult given that the ultimate outcome would be that her baby would not survive.

Dr Astbury told her “in this country it is not legal to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of poor prognosis for a foetus”.

Pause to rant. That is disgusting. It’s sick. The issue in this case is infection and death and failure to treat, but even if it were “only” a matter of refusing to hasten the end of a doomed pregnancy, that is disgusting. As I understand it the fetus’s chance of survival was closer to zero than a very small percentage, and why should the mother be punished by being forced to wait for the fetus to die inside her? It is sick.

She said it was her view that Mrs Halappanavar was emotionally disturbed, but not physically unwell.

She told Mr Halappanavar’s barrister, Eugene Gleeson, that she felt at the time the prospect of viability for the foetus was poor as opposed to being non-existent.

The phrase “inevitable miscarriage” had been recorded in medical notes by a colleague of Dr Astbury on 22 October.

Dr Astbury told Mr Gleeson that “the law in Ireland does not permit termination even if there is no prospect of viability”.

She said this was her understanding based on the X case judgment and Medical Council guidelines.

She told Mr Gleeson it did not occur to her to consult her colleagues about the legal position.

That seems to indicate that Astbury has no idea that a dilated cervix and/or premature rupture of membranes is/are dangerous, while what I get from Jen Gunter is that that’s basic knowledge, in every textbook. Astbury isn’t a cardiologist after all, she’s an obstetrician. I’m wondering what is in Irish medical textbooks.

Dr Astbury said she did not see Mr Halappanavar or his wife on Monday 22 October after a scan detecting a foetal heartbeat was performed and that there was no formal request made to her for a termination on that day.

Great. Fantastic. They just shoved her in a corner to wait, then.

The Irish Times also reports.

Dr Katherine Astbury agreed with coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin there were systems failure at the hospital in relation to the monitoring of Ms Halappanavar and the processing of blood tests.

Asked about her decision to refuse Ms Halappanavar’s request for a termination, she said that under Irish law there had to be a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the patient before this could happen.

Which there was. And if there hadn’t been – why does Irish law want to force women to take risks?

I know why; it’s because priests; but it’s necessary to spell this crap out. Irish law sees fit to make gradations of risk and to force women to take what Irish law considers “unreal and insubstantial” risk to their lives.

At the time of the request, Ms Halappanavar was well and a termination was not permitted because of a diagnosis of poor foetal prognosis.

Dr McLoughlin urged the witness to get away from the “emotive term” of termination, which evoked the killing of the foetus. This was not the intention of the Halappanavars, he said. Dr Astbury said that if a patient was given medication to deliver at the time when there was a foetal heartbeat, her understanding was that this was a termination.

Dr McLoughlin quoted from Medical Council guidelines on obstetric complications, which state that it may be necessary to intervene to protect the life of the mother while making every effort to save the baby’s life.

Asked if she felt she had scope to intervene under these guidelines, the witness said she didn’t believe she could. Her understanding was that these guidelines applied to situation where a mother had been diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening illness not related to her pregnancy. In that situation, intervention would be justified, Dr Astbury said. The issue was that there was no law to tell someone what was permitted or not. It was a question of law.

What an incredible dog’s breakfast.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Left untreated, the outcome is maternal death

Apr 9th, 2013 3:25 pm | By

Dr Jen Gunter has weighed in; I was hoping she would. She was informative and passionate about it last fall.

Savita Halappanavar was admitted at on a Sunday to Galway hospital at 17 weeks into her pregnancy with ruptured membranes, a dilated cervix, and an elevated white blood cell count (a marker of infection). It is clear that her diagnosis was chorioamnionitis, an infection of the fetal membranes. When left untreated the bacteria of chorioamnionitis march across the umbilical cord into both the maternal and fetal circulation. Left untreated, the outcome is maternal death.

Just walking through the door with ruptured membranes at 17 weeks Ms. Halappanavar baseline risk of chorioamnionitis was 30-40%. Her presentation should not have posed a diagnostic dilemma, not even for an intern. She was a perfect set up.

In Canada and the United States, once chorioamnionitis is diagnosed the treatment is antibiotics and delivery. An “expeditious delivery…regardless of gestational age,” according to the guidelines of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). If the fetus is not viable there is no waiting for the fetal lungs to mature or waiting for the fetus to succumb. The recommendation is delivery. This is because chorioamnionitis kills women and if a fetus is on the cusp of viability it has a far greater chance of survival without an infection than with one. The infection helps no one, neither the mother nor the fetus.

What I want to know is, what are OB_GYNs taught in Irish medical schools? What are they taught is the treatment for chorioamnionitis? Are they really taught it’s to delay unless the fetal heart has stopped?

Savita Halappanavar’s medical team tells a different story. The testimony of the consultant obstetrician was that Ms. Halappanavar was not sick enough to be allowed a termination on Tuesday according to the Irish legal position. However, there is clear evidence that she was rapidly deteriorating on the Tuesday evening. Ms. Halappanavar’s heart rate was 110 beats/minute and her widower reports that she was shivering and her teeth were “chattering.” Tachycardia (a rapid heart rate) and shaking chills and clear clinical signs that she was gravely ill.

And yet they dawdled. Still.

What is the treatment for chorioamnionitis?

If the answer is delivery then the delay must be explained. One obvious explanation is the swiss cheese effect, where several things are missed culminating in a very bad outcome. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.  This problem can be fixed with better staffing, education, and specific protocols.

If the answer is, as the consultant obstetrician suggests, that Ms. Halappanavar was simply not sick enough to warrant delivery then it appears that the current “legal position” in Ireland is that a woman must be left brewing her infection until the stench is bad enough that Death himself gets a whiff and comes calling.

That’s not the legal position here in the US, but it is the de facto position in many Catholic hospitals.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Tuesday at the inquest

Apr 9th, 2013 10:48 am | By

Fergal Bowers reports for RTE.

A midwife who was working on the ward where Savita Halappanavar was being treated has given evidence at the inquest into her death.

Miriam Dunleavy told the Coroner’s Court in Galway that entries were put into Mrs Halappanavar’s medical notes by the hospital’s internal investigation.

Coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin raised questions as to the appropriateness of this.

Yes that does sound slightly inappropriate.

Dr Katherine Astbury also testified.

In a detailed chronological account of the treatment she provided, Dr Astbury said that she had requested an ultrasound on Monday 22 October after Mrs Halappanavar’s membranes ruptured.

On the following day when she asked for medication to assist a miscarriage, she said she told Mrs Halappanavar that the Irish legal position did not allow her to carry out a termination at that time, as there was no risk to her life or health.

If that’s true it’s an absolute outrage, because there was great risk to her life and health. Her cervix was found to be dilated on Sunday morning, and on Tuesday an obstetrician told her there was no risk to her life or health. That is frightening.

When her condition deteriorated the following day, Dr Astbury said she had formed the view that there might be no option but to consider a delivery, regardless of the foetal heartbeat.

They waited until she got much worse and then they started thinking there might be no option but to consider an abortion.

It’s disgusting.

Don’t go thinking it’s just Ireland though. I know I keep saying that, but it’s under the radar. It’s the US too. Here it’s against the law, but the law isn’t enforced. Catholic hospitals are allowed to make their own laws. This comment from yesterday on As no threat to Savita’s life illustrates that.

I can attest that termination is not a standard of care I received, even when requested, during a protracted miscarriage.  When my water broke on a Friday night  at 16weeks and I started bleeding heavily, I went to the ER.  No hope for the fetus.  I requested termination, and they said they couldn’t because it still had a heartbeat.  (30beats per minute.  C’mon!). They kept me overnight, sent me home in the morning with a dead fetus inside me with instruction to call my OB on Monday to schedule a D&E at some outpatient surgery center.  The next day, Sunday, I delivered a boy without warning.  Cut the cord, wrapped him in a cloth diaper and put him in a child’s shoebox.  Back to the ER where I eventually had a D&C to remove the very stubborn placenta.  Baby Boy was buried in a mass grave.

So, all that to say, I had 2.5 days of slow-motion second trimester miscarriage in which I requested a termination, was denied, was told they could not even perform the D&E after the fetus had died (I can’t remember why…) and some seriously traumatizing moments.  I did not get an infection, fortunately.  This was in Austin, where even the public hospital is run by the Catholics…

This should not be allowed. Not in Ireland, not in the US, not anywhere.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

No threat to Savita’s life

Apr 8th, 2013 3:46 pm | By

And there’s RTE’s account.

Praveen Halappanavar said they asked for a termination three times over two days.

The inquest has been told that the evidence from Dr Astbury will be that there was only one discussion about a termination of pregnancy and it was on Tuesday 23 October.

Dr Astbury says a termination was not warranted at that time, as there was no threat to Savita’s life and so no reason to consider an abortion.

According to Dr Jennifer Gunter (an OB-GYN) that’s bullshit; there was a threat to Savita’s life.

One wonders if medical training in Ireland is actually shaped according to Catholic dogma and Irish law.

The inquest heard that when Mrs Halappanavar attended Galway University Hospital on 21 October, doctors found her cervix was open and she was told the baby would not survive.

She was told it would be all over soon.

The inquest has heard that a sepsis management programme was in place at Galway University Hospital since July last year.

Meanwhile, back with the safe and powerful…

Elsewhere, Minister for Health James Reilly has said he hopes the inquest gets to the truth in a way that not only gives some closure to the Halappanavar family, but also to every woman in Ireland that it has a safe maternity service.

But Ireland doesn’t have a safe maternity service! Never mind “closure”; fix the law!


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)