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Call For Justice For The Hungarian Midwife And Human Rights Defender Dr. Ágnes Geréb And Certain Of Her Colleagues

cross-posted from AWID.org

Hungary has legalized home birth, yet midwives who attended home births before legalization have been harshly imprisoned. On February 10th, 2012, the Budapest Appeal Court announced the verdict in the case of Dr. Ágnes Geréb (an OB/Gyn as well as a midwife) and four other Hungarian midwives. The terms of Ágnes Geréb’s sentence of two-year imprisonment were tightened, a ban on practicing doubled to ten years.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE FOR THE HUNGARIAN MIDWIFE AND HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER DR. ÁGNES GERÉB AND CERTAIN OF HER COLLEAGUES

Who is Dr. Ágnes Geréb?

Dr. Ágnes Geréb, is a greatest Hungarian defender of women's right to choose in the area of maternity services. In 2011 Dr. Geréb was voted as “Most Influential Woman of the Decade” by the prestigious Hungarian women’s journal ’Nok Lapja’. She has dedicated herself to improving women’s lives, to expanding their right of self-determination and to the service of women’s physical and mental health. She has accompanied several thousand joyous and safe births practicing and promoting the midwifery model of care. Also she established a new school ofthought with regard to the birthing process in Hungary.

Dr. Geréb has played an essential role in changing the deeply hierarchical, patriarchal, and dependent doctor-patient relationship and obstetric practice prevalent in Hungary. Owing to dr. Geréb, there has been an increase in friendlier health care providers who trust women’s strength, their awareness and self-esteem and keep in mind both the mother’s and the baby’s needs.

Out-of-hospital births have neither been prohibited nor regulated in Hungary, and the legalprovisions of 2011 on out-of-hospital births have failed to bring about substantial changes thus far. Hence, cases involving the loss of or injury to the newborn during the birthing process have had to stand trial before a criminal court – unlike similar cases occurring in hospitals, where they are brought before a professional board.

In 17 years of home birth practice, Dr. Geréb and her independent midwifery colleagues have delivered over 3,500 healthy babies with only 3 fatalities. By contrast in the same 17 year period thousands of babies and hundreds of mothers have died in Hungarian hospital from adverse birth incidents, yet hospital doctors have rarely if ever been investigated or charged by the state criminal prosecution system.

Dr. Ágnes Geber case:

She was arrested on October 5th, 2010 at the Napvilág Birthing Centre, Alma utca, Budapest, after assisting the delivery of a premature child. When the expectant mother – who had been advised by Dr. Geréb to give birth in hospital because of certain conditions present during the pregnancy – arrived at the Centre for a routine consultation and examination, it was found that she was in an advanced stage of labour, and the child was born extremely rapidly. An ambulance was immediately called as the midwives began to assist the mother. The ambulance arrived approximately twenty minutes later, followed by the police.

Upon arrival, the police demanded the identification papers of all persons present, including the father of the child, the health professionals, and families taking part in a parental class on the premises. Dr. Geréb and two other midwives were subsequently taken into custody. Since her arrest, Dr. Geréb has been subjected to humiliation and ill-treatment while in detention (she was subjected to nude, full body cavity searches before and after receiving visitors, was granted only one visit a month from family members, and one ten-minute phone call per week).

The mother and baby were subsequently released from hospital but this and the other birth incidents were combined and Dr. Geréb has since been charged with professional negligence in these matters. Since October 5th, 2010 until December 21st, 2010 (77 days) she was imprisoned without trial and then transferred to on-going and indefinite house arrest.

At the same time court proceedings, which had been on-going in 2010 and 2011 in relation to two homebirth fatalities related to 2006 and 2007, reached a conclusion on 10, February, 2012. On that day the Appeal Court confirmed that Dr, Geréb was guilty of professional negligence in both birth incidents and upheld the lower court sentence of 2years imprisonment while also choosing to double her suspension from working as either a doctor or midwife to 10 years and is waiting for the judgments of the other charges.

In addition, during the proceedings against dr. Geréb, only such medical experts were selected to testify who were unfamiliar with the professional protocols of out-of-hospital births and explicitly condemned home-births. The evidence throughout Dr. Geréb’s trial and from everything was following before and after it suggests that criminal court changes are badly needed to get rid of the impediments to a fair trial.

On November 3th, 2010, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Chairperson Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, sent an urgent appeal to the Hungarian Government regarding the situation of Dr. Ágnes Geréb. As a result, on her report at the UN General Assembly of Febrary 28th, 2011, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, stated that “notwithstanding the information provided by the Government the Special Rapporteur reiterates her concern that the arrest and detention of Dr Ágnes Geréb may be linked to her work in the defence of human rights” (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/docs/A.HRC.16.44.Add.1_EF... para 1055.)

Urgent Appeal

Dr. Geréb is scheduled to commence imprisonment on 3rd May, 2012, that why is so important your support at this moment. All legal avenues in the Hungarian system have been exhausted and it now remains to the incoming President of Hungary to consider the request for full clemency that Dr. Geréb has submitted to thatoffice.

In future we must campaign to ensure that midwives no longer have to be processed automatically through the criminal code but be treated similarly to Hungarian hospital doctors with respect to the investigation of adverse birth incidents and have their birth actions assessed by a permanent medical committee of their peers. For Dr. Geréb these changes cannot come in time to prevent her imprisonment on May 3rd.

Supporters can help in this aim by going to the internet link shown below and signing the international petition supporting Dr. Geréb’s request for full clemency and giving it publicity on your own networks.

The link is http://www.change.org/petitions/please-grant-full-clemency-to-dr-midwife-Ágnes-Geréb and the petition letter can be read below.

For any further enquiries please contact: Donal Kerry, International Spokesperson for the Dr. Ágnes Geréb Justice Campaign donalkerry@hotmail.com.

Mobile: +36309242190.

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Grant Full Clemency to Dr./Midwife Agnes Gereb and her colleague

Greetings,

I just signed the following petition addressed to: the Incoming President of Hungary, Janos Ader.

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Grant Full Clemency to Dr./Midwife Agnes Gereb and her colleague

In the matter of Dr. Ágnes Geréb's impending imprisonment for two years we write to kindly ask that you reply positively to her request for a Presidential pardon and for the cancellation of all criminal procedures against her and the other midwife involved in the same cases, Ágnes Kiraly. The prison sentence and 10 year ban on practicising handed down to Dr. Geréb on February,10th, 2012, has shocked and saddened many as she is an internationally renowned obstetrician-midwife who was the first in Hungary to let fathers into the labor ward, allowing families to experience the miracle of birth together. She assisted several thousand normal births without complications, facilitated the beginning of numerous happy lives and has worked tirelessly for the development of safe and progressive midwifery practices in Hungary.

There is now a growing belief that the granting of clemency to Dr. Geréb would help create the conditions for further reforms of maternity care in Hungary and that Hungary might become a positive example of change to other countries in the region, still burdened from Communist time with the legacy of authoritarian systems of medical care.

Hungary has recently legalized home birth, yet midwives like Dr. Geréb, whoattended home births before legalization have unfairly received criminal sentences, and all future licenced midwives will still remain exposed to discriminatory treatment and criminalisation in the investigation of adverse birth incidents. Surely it is time for midwives' birth actions not to be judged by a criminal court, but by a professional regulatory body and in this regard wealso urge you to use your office to promote the early establishment of a permanent Board of Midwives, who in future would deal with allegations of negligence against their members.

The efforts of the present Hungarian government which brought about the introduction of first-time homebirth legislation in 2011 are very much appreciated. However, the criminal proceedings against Dr. Geréb and the other midwives predate the implementation of the new regulations, and we believe fairness and equity would require that account now be taken of this.

Please exercise your right to provide or advocate for presidential clemency for Dr. Ágnes Geréb, for the cancellation of all criminal proceedings against her and Ágnes Kiraly and to promote the establishment of a permanent Board of Midwives.

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