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RCM condemns treatment of Hungarian midwife

2010-11-23 04:11

RCM condemns treatment of Hungarian midwife

The RCM has added its voice to the growing number criticising the treatment of Agnes Gereb, a midwife in Budapest who has been detained by Hungarian authorities for attending out-of-hospital births. Posted 23 November 2010, by Gareth Price

The RCM has added its voice to the growing number criticising the treatment of Agnes Gereb, a midwife in Budapest who has been detained by Hungarian authorities for attending out-of-hospital births.


RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick said: 'We join professional colleagues as well as other groups from across the UK, Europe and indeed the rest of the world in registering our very strong condemnation of the treatment of Agnes Gereb. We would like to call both for the release of Dr Gereb and for the introduction of legislation in Hungary which would allow midwives to perform out of hospital births.'

Dr Gereb, a gynaecologist, midwife and recognised home birth expert, was arrested in October, minutes after she attended a birth at the midwife-led centre she runs in the Hungarian capital. Dr Gereb's supporters say the woman arrived at the centre for a routine check up at 37 weeks but while there had gone into labour. Paramedics were called but before they arrived the woman had given birth and the newborn having breathing difficulties and circulation problems.

The police arrived shortly after and Dr Gereb was taken into custody. She was held for a week without charge but finally appeared in court accused of negligent malpractice. She faces several other charges, including manslaughter, relating to earlier cases.

Cathy said: 'Agnes Gereb is a woman who has been attempting to work in the interests of women. Her treatment at the hands of the authorities is disproportionate and inhumane. She has been arrested, imprisoned and mistreated. It is grossly unjust that any woman should be treated in such a way.'

She added that, along with its sister organisation the Hungarian Midwives Association, the RCM called for Dr Gereb's release and fair treatment.

Cathy said the case showed the need for European-wide regulation to make it legal for midwives to work in any place that women choose to give birth. She said: 'Women are aware that there is strong evidence to support out of hospital birth and in making such a choice they should not be denied the attendance of a registered midwife.'

Other supporters include Sheila Kitzinger, the natural childbirth activist and author, and obstetric consultant Professor Wendy Savage, who described Dr Gereb's treatment as 'a shocking indictment of the Hungarian maternity system.'

In a letter to The Guardian newspaper, they explained: ‘In 2007 Gereb was struck off the medical register for doing home births and then retrained as a midwife. The birth now in question was not at home, the woman had been advised by Gereb to have her baby in hospital, and labour occurred prematurely. Gereb's lawyers have not yet been told what the charges are but, as mother and child are alive, it cannot be manslaughter – so why is Gereb being treated as a criminal? This is a matter of human rights.’

Sheila and Wendy called upon others to sign an online petition, organised by Dr Gereb's supporters, calling for a proper legal framework to assist out-of-hospital births in Hungary.


 
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