Monday, October 6, 2014
Open letter by Donal Kerry
Justice Campaign for Dr. Ágnes Geréb
Today, the 5th of October, 2014 marks the 4th anniversary of the arrest of Dr. Ágnes Geréb. An arrest which led to her imprisonment for 70 days followed by house arrest for a further 3 years and 2 months. Then, in late February, 2014 the Court of Appeal ruled that her confinement conditions should be relaxed for health reasons. Consequently, house arrest restrictions were removed and Ágnes can now move freely around the city of Budapest and also throughout the immediate county within which the capital is situated. She is not permitted to go beyond this area nor is she allowed to advise or consult with pregnant women.
The relaxation of conditions around Ágnes's detention came as a great relief to her and her family but it still leaves Ágnes facing enormous difficulties in her personal and professional life. This greater freedom of movement has, at least, allowed her secure some non-midwifery related work and with it a small but critical income towards supporting herself and her two school-going children. Since 6th, December, 2012 she has been defending herself in the criminal court regarding the birth case which caused her arrest and imprisonment 4 years ago, and a further 4 cases which the Hungarian State Prosecution Services added to the charge list. In the birth case incidents currently before the court all the birthing mother's involved support Ágnes and it is now expected the court verdicts will be delivered sometime in 2015.
Ágnes also has a 2 year prison sentence set against her since 2012, related to a fatal birth outcome involving a shoulder dystocia complication. She appealed to the President of Hungary in the matter and he has publicly stated his intention to decide upon Ágnes's request once final verdicts have been handed down in the other cases presently before the criminal courts. Recently, two further developments have occurred in the shoulder dystocia case. The first, concerns the parents involved who commenced a civil action to sue Ágnes for damages related to her professional negligence surrounding the death of their baby. The second, concerns a Hungarian medical expert who has come forward to defend Ágnes's professional actions at this birth, something which didn't occur when the original case was prosecuted through the courts. His medical statement is now being reviewed by the court and if it is found to have merit then one option is for the case to be reopened.
In the meantime, national and international support has remained consistently strong for Ágnes and for the rights of birthing mothers and midwives in Hungary. In late November, 2013, four Hungarian NGO's made an oral presentation to the EU Petitions Committee in Brussels concerning the Hungarian Government's failure to fully implement an EU Directive supporting midwifery-led-care in hospitals. As a consequence, the EU is now in dialogue with the Hungarian Government in the matter. We are hopeful this will be another step leading to the implementation of the legislative changes required to allow birthing mothers’ choose the type of birth experience which suits them best. The time of Ágnes's confinement has also shown a slow but perceptible move by the political and medical communities to be more pragmatic in dealing with the wider birthing issues raised by Ágnes’s actions and confinement. This trend is a welcome one even though it remains frustratingly slow.
Ágnes continues to show great diginity under circumstances of incredible duress. With her legal team she is defending her professional actions and reputation in all cases before the court with great fortitude and tenacity, in order to secure the justice which all campaign supporters believe she has been deprived of to-date. We will continue to keep all supporters updated on the situation of Ágnes as her treatment is also rightly seen to be inextricably linked to the future rights of birthing mothers and midwives in Hungary. I would like to finish by thanking you on behalf of Ágnes and the campaign team for the massive support you have offered her and Hungarian birthing mothers and midwives throughout these 4 years.
Posted by Elena Skoko at 6:10 AM