Doctors rally behind imprisoned home-birth advocate

Seven hundred MDs and health care workers sign petition asking incoming president to pardon obstetrician given two-year term for defying ban on assisted homebirths.

Ágnes Geréb at a patient's home in 2001.

2012-05-02 10:42

Seven hundred doctors and health-care workers have signed a petition addressed to the incoming president of the republic, Janos Ader, asking him to pardon Agnes Gereb, the obstetrician who has been sentenced to a two-year prison term for defying the law which banned assisting homebirths, Magyar Nemzet daily said on Wednesday.


Ader is scheduled to be sworn in a president today.


The doctors, including pediatricians and obstetricians, argued in the letter that no baby had died in Gereb's hands in the course of a homebirth who would have been saved had they been delivered in hospital.


They also said that Gereb, through her work, had brought about major advances in the provision of birthing in Hungary. She is linked with the involvement of the father in births and she championed homebirths, a practice which is spreading in all developed countries, the letter said.


The letter noted that experts involved in assessing her work during the criminal procedure against her exclusively came from Hungarian institutions, and in many ways current practice in Hungarian hospitals does not come up to medical standards practised elsewhere. It added that the opinion of domestic and foreign doctors who are expert in the field had not been taken into consideration.


Earlier lawmakers of the ruling Fidesz and Christian Democratic parties turned to former president Pal Schmitt in support of Gereb's clemency plea.


The three deputies said Gereb had "spent enough time in pre-trial detention already".


The court of appeals of Budapest found Gereb guilty of professional negligence, causing death on one account and a permanent disability on another. The court gave her a two-year prison sentence in a non-appealable ruling, augmenting a preliminary sentence by excluding the option of release on probation, and increasing a five-year ban on assisting births to ten years.


Gereb, who was sentenced in the first instance in March 2011, was denied clemency by Schmitt last June. She has been in house arrest since December 2010.



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