Who Owns Savita Halappanavar’s Medical Notes?


The husband of Savita Halappanavar is considering lodging a complaint to the Ombudsman to assert his ownership of his wife’s medical notes, his solicitor has said.

Gerard O’Donnell said he had taken instructions from Praveen Halappanavar to seek direction from the Ombudsman on whether he or Galway University Hospital owns her medical records.

Mr Halappanavar has objected to the use of his wife’s notes in a HSE inquiry into her death. He has said he has no faith in a HSE-run inquiry and does not want her notes used in it.

Mr O’Donnell had asked that the hospital, where Ms Halappanavar died last month, hand over the original medical notes. However, the HSE has said it owns them.

Husband may lodge complaint with Ombudsman (Kitty Holland, Paul Cullen, Irish Times)

(Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

21 thoughts on “Who Owns Savita Halappanavar’s Medical Notes?

  1. Eliot Rosewater

    That’s odd. When I asked my hospital for my records (when I wanted a second opinion) they handed them over, no questions asked.

    1. rob

      That doesn’t mean you own them.

      You certainly didn’t get the original copy.

      There is a big difference between requesting a copy of the record in your case, and insisting that you have the right to veto what the HSE can do with that record by giving it to an inquiry team.
      I think that it was a mistake on the part of Mr Halappanavar’s solicitor to advise him that he could veto this handover. It is long-established in law and practice that the provider owns the record, not the patient, and the solicitor should have been fully aware of this.

      All hospitals own the medical record.

      Also, you can get a copy of the record once you apply to the hospital to do so.

      Think of any interaction you have as a consumer with any service provider. The service provider owns the definitive record of your transaction.
      Tesco owns all the data about your shopping and your clubcard use.

      I know that is a slightly flippant comparison, but the same truth holds for all corporate entities, including hospitals/HSE.

      Mr Halappanavar is completely entitled to request AND RECEIVE the full hospital record on his wife.
      The new information that that record is incomplete is a separate (though also highly concerning) issue.

      1. Cheese

        I’m presuming they want the original notes so they can see what was written and what was not… with a copy they could edit the notes after the face less obviously… like how a copy of your passport can’t be used as a passport?

    2. Liam

      They were your notes. Not somebody else. Savita still has the right to have her medical confidentiality respected.

      1. seriously sam

        I think that’s view of privacy is at odds with the demand for a public enquiry.

        Just saying.

        It seems a bit to me as though those advising the husband are not giving him the best advice, but are rather looking to get as much publicity as possible. In a US attorney sort of way.

        Allowing the HSE to have its own enquiry is not mutually exclusive of there being any other enquiry. And trying to stop them using their own notes seems odd to me. That is not the same thing as wanting a copy of the notes, which makes perfect sense to me.

        The again, easy for me to say all that and be objective – I haven’t lost any loved ones.

      1. Liam

        Why should they have equal ownership? There’s nothing in Irish law to give relatives rights over hospital records. They were Savita’s records, not “Savita and her husband”‘s records.

  2. BLC

    According to Praveen, the notes record several occasions where his wife asked for a cup of tea or a blanket. They make no mention of the times when she asked for a termination.

    Does anyone know what the legal position is about such a lapse?

    Morally, it’s horrifying. If she had been here alone, he would only have her records to go on, and they seem to be a deliberate misrepresentation of what happened. And that would be the end of the story.

  3. Definition

    Huge cover up going on here and the fact that Reilly is an MD speaks volumes about how this “investigation” is proceeding.

  4. KingOfCong

    Hopefully we can hear every single detail every single day about this case. Its so important that the public has all the details and non of the facts. It makes filling up newspapers, websites, tv shows, radio shows and any spare moment much easier.

    Lets try to go one day without having to spout “our” opinion on things we know little or nothing about.

    1. John Gallen

      KingOfCong, if we waited as you say, we would get nothing.

      And if you were paying attention to this post. It’s about getting the info and all of it. It’s the process that is being questioned here… we haven’t even got to the facts yet. Pay attention!

    2. BLC

      I followed a lot of that, but you lose me with teh details/facts stuff. Could you why the details aren’t facts, and how we know more without the details than we would if we had them? It’s a bit confusing.

  5. Puddle

    The standard of medical notes generally is well below what you’d expect, and far below the standards of other information intensive industries.. There’s a proposed health information bill due in may but that’s been scheduled since 2008 so I wouldn’t hold ur breath but hopefully that’ll clarify “ownership”

  6. Cian

    I think the medical records issue is dificult for the husband to assert himself on. Certainly going to the Ombudsman is the wrong way to go about the issue. It may be that there is a Data Protection issue here but I assume that the Data Protection Commissioner has sanctioned the release of personal medical information to interested parties such as Gardai, Coroner and clinical reviewers in any case of death during medical treatment.

    There has also been a complaint by the family that there is to be no public enquiry and this may be challenged by them under the Convention on Human Rights. The difficulty for them here is that the State will provide a public forum for this at the Inquest. The fact that the State wishes to conduct a speedy clinical review in private so that various doctors and nurses do not all have to be legally represented is not likely to be seen as a trammelling of the family’s rights.

    I suspect in hindsight they will see the refusal to cooperate with an inquiry – with all the access to question witnesses that it would have brought – as a mistake, and one they are unlikely to get the chance to turn the clock back on.

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