Ágnes Geréb, professional midwife, sentenced to two years imprisonment

January 10, 2018

Ágnes Geréb, professional midwife, sentenced to two years imprisonment
Photo: index.hu/Orsi Ajpek

“Ágnes Geréb, the woman who has done most to make birth in Hungary, at home or in hospital, a better, safer experience for mothers and their families was sentenced today to 2 years in prison. No more appeals are possible. This happened on my son Samu’s 25th birthday. He was the 25th home-birth in Hungary, on 9th January 1993. Thanks to Ágnes, the birth was so good, so safe, so empowering, we went on to have four more children, all born at home, all born with her expert help. I would like to ask everyone reading this to think about what they can do to help Ágnes at this difficult, and unjust time.” – Nick Thorpe, BBC correspondent, on his Facebook page

Hungarian gynecologist and midwife Ágnes Geréb has been sentenced by the Budapest Court to two years in prison and banned from practicing her profession for ten years for her handling of complications during delivery resulting in the deaths of two infants, one in 2003 and another in 2007.

Geréb was first sentenced in February 2012 for allegedly causing the wrongful death of two newborns and for reckless endangerment.  While awaiting the verdict she spent three months in pre-trial detention before being confined to her home.

Geréb’s lawyer requested retrials in 2014 and in 2016 based on a new expert medical opinion at odds with the one serving as the basis for the verdict. According to the new opinion, Geréb did not commit any professional errors that would have directly resulted in the deaths of the newborns.

In April 2017 a new hearing modified the sentence, sentencing Geréb for the less serious crime of endangerment with regard to the 2003 case involving the death of the second of a pair of twins who suffered oxygen deprivation during birth and died six months later. With regard to the 2007 case, the court commuted the two-year prison sentence to five years of probation, and decreased the length of the ban from ten to eight years.

This decision, in turn, was appealed by the prosecution in April 2017. The second-level court upheld the original decision and sentence.

Geréb told Index the following after Tuesday’s hearing:

“I started delivering babies outside of hospitals in the 1980s, precisely when Hungarian society was occupied on every level with destroying the oppressive system. These lawsuits and criminal proceedings against me are actually about how societal need for home births has become progressively stronger, whose right to exist could not be suddenly recognized without the bribery-based medical society sweeping away the expert truths tied to my person over the previous decades. The solution to this irreconcilable contradiction was to violently shunt me aside as the home-birth black sheep, without whom the home-birth considered to date to be dangerous and worthy of persecution will be nice and good.”

In an earlier interview, Geréb told index.hu:

“After a long time the Hungarian state has finally recognized that people have as much right to give birth outside of institutions as within institutions. The key to security is freedom of choice based on real information.  This is needed in order for women and families to address birth in safety and with security. In any case, childbirth is trying. It is in society’s interest not to add humiliation and trauma.  Women choosing to give birth at home play not a small role in the humanization of birth within institutions.  If my work has helped in any way in getting closer to a more just and person-friendly system, then there was some profit, positive contribution to this long, difficult period, this witch-hunt.”

Geréb told the online daily that, before her arrest in 2010, she had attended 3,500 home births, which only became legal in Hungary in 2011.