Dr. Ágnes Geréb, Hungarian Midwife and Obstetrician

Dr Geréb qualified as a doctor in 1977, completed her specialisation in obs-gynae in 1982 and attended 6,500 hospital-births between 1977/1989.

Ágnes became an unexpected pioneer, trying to change the culture and hospital system away from the needs of doctors towards those of the birthing mother. Conflict ensued, so she left hospital work in 1989 and established the first independent midwifery practice in Hungary.

In the early 90s Ágnes travelled internationally to see progressive birth practice, organised first natural childbirth conferences in Hungary with prestigious international speakers, started attending homebirths, secured Parliamentary approval for the first ever birth centre in Hungary, established ’Alternatal’ to support women antenatally (over 10,000 women and partners have used the service) and co-founded the Hungarian branch of the international network of childbirth associations (ENCA) which today works in 20 European countries.

From the outset, the Hungarian Obstetrician profession always saw her midwifery approach as a threat to their status, and to their income. Determined to resist the influence of her philosophy in maternity practices in Hungary they lobbied to ensure that medical attendance for homebirths was not licensed by the Ministry of Health. This position was taken by them even though the Hungarian constitution permitted pregnant women the right to choose a homebirth. Over the next 20 years Dr Gereb attended the births of some 3,500 healthy homebirth babies (in this unlicensed and unregulated arena) and she organised and trained a small group of previous hospital midwives to provide these homebirth services. Ágnes became the example that inspired the growth of a homebirth movement in Hungary.

At the end of 2010 the ECHR ruled against Hungary in the Ternovszky V Hungary case (link: http://www.humanrightsinchildbirth.org/blog/2013/9/26/ternovszky-vs-hungary) and determined that licenced medical services must be provided to women birthing at home. This meant that independent midwives in Hungary would finally be allowed to apply for licenses. The regulations introduced in 2011 have been very onerous, making it very difficult for independent midwives to be able to fulfil the conditions imposed to secure a licence. Similarly, many birthing mothers are not eligible to homebirth because of failure to meet the very severe restrictions applying to them.

Furthermore, the new regulations did not address the discrimination that exists whereby the Hungarian State health insurance scheme does not cover the costs of a birthing mother who chooses a homebirth, but does so if she chooses a hospital birth.

On, 5th October, 2010 after an adverse homebirth incident, Ágnes was arrested and imprisoned for 77 days; then moved to the severest house arrest conditions for 38 months. A further 21 months was spent in regional arrest. She was freed in November, 2015 but was still prevented from working.

Ágnes has spent the last 7 years in courts dealing with two sets of court cases. The first set refers to two birth incidences. One occurred in 2003 (a twin birth where one died 7 months later) and in 2007 (a shoulder dystocia birth complication). They arrived to court in 2011. The final verdict was delivered on Jan 9th, 2018 after a prolonged series of appeal and counter appeals.

The Jan, 9th verdict confirmed that Ágnes would have to serve 2 years in prison and would be suspended from working for 10 years. Because of this verdict prison is imminent and she will shortly submit a request to the President for a Pardon. It is considered very likely that Dr Gereb will have to go to prison while Presdient Áder considers her Pardon request.

Ágnes has spent more than 7 years without working, has been deprived of her freedom for nearly 5 years and is now facing prison for 2 years, and a work suspension for 10 years until 2028 (that is 25 years after the first event!) for 2 birth incidents that would have had the same outcome in a hospital, and had these 2 birth incidents occurred in the hospital (as they do on a regular basis) the doctors involved would face no criminal charges and rightly so too.

What has happened to Ágnes is without precedent in Hungary, and is against all the standards of natural justice. However, our Campaign approach, as agreed with Ágnes, is to deal respectfully with the President in the hope that his Office will look at the enormously positive role Ágnes has played in modernising and humanising many of the practices now conducted in maternity hospitals. We also hope in the spirit of approaching him with goodwill that he will recognise that Ágnes has been punished excessively as it is for these 2 birth incidents, and that now is the time to redress this awful fact and have her reconciled and rehabilitated into the Hungarian maternity community once again. We would sincerely ask all supporters of Ágnes to follow her example by using moderate language in anything you write to the President and emphasise the need for Ágnes to remain with her family, return to her work and contribute to the further progress of maternity services in Hungary".

The Campaign for Justice for Dr. Geréb is working hard to build momentum at home and abroad towards the President of Hungary to ensure that he is aware of the strength of support that prevails for Ágnes to end this matter and return her to her valued role of contributing to the improvement of maternity services in Hungary. Further information on our Campaign activities can be followed via:

https://www.facebook.com/freegereb/
https://freegereb.hu/en/

Enquiries can be directed to:

Donal Kerry
International Spokesperson
Justice Campaign for Dr. Ágnes Geréb
email: donalkerry@hotmail.com

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