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 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 an 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. We are convinced that her continued involvement will prove indispensable for this goal.
Hungary has recently legalized home birth, yet midwives like Dr. Geréb, who attended 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. It is time for midwives' birth actions not to be judged by a criminal court, but by a professional regulatory body, a Board of Midwives, who in future would deal with allegations of negligence against their members.