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Homebirth champion Ágnes Geréb’s sentence confirmed

January 16th, 2018

Opinions diverge bitterly on the verdict handed down last week to Ágnes Geréb, an obstetrician and midwife who was first sentenced to two years in jail six years ago. That sentence has now been definitively confirmed by the Budapest Court.

Since the 1980s, Dr Geréb campaigned for the now generally accepted practice of fathers being allowed to attend hospital births, then for the possibility of home birth which is by now also accepted. In the first serious case against her, a baby girl died during a homebirth in 2007. She was banned from practicing her profession by the court, but continued – as a midwife. In the second fatal case, a baby suffered serious brain damage when he stopped breathing during his birth at home, and died months later in hospital.

On Mérce, Kata Ámon finds the verdict unjust and believes that it wasn’t even intended to alleviate the pain of the two families who had lost their babies during and after birth with Dr. Geréb, but to deter mothers and midwives from homebirth. She argues that many babies also die, or are injured during birth in hospitals, without doctors and nurses being prosecuted. Ámon suspects the widespread habit of paying substantial ‘gratitude money’ to obstetricians, is the ultimate reason why the experts heard by the court testified against Geréb.

On HVG online, György Balavány thinks that what he calls Dr. Geréb’s recklessness left the courts with no other option than to sentence her. In fact, rightly or wrongly, he explains, Dr. Geréb was already banned after one fatality and still continued to oversee births. Balavány dismisses the argument that doctors are not prosecuted after similar cases, as ‘thousands of physicians’ are sued in Hungary yearly. Nevertheless, he suggests that as the case has been dragging on for many years, the sentence could have been mitigated by the court.