Παρασκευή, 8 Μαρτίου 2013

"Kathimerini" newspaper on recent prosecutions related to homebirth

Doctors and parents to be prosecuted for attending homebirths


Unprecedented research and profiling of 78 people after conviction of midwife


By Lina Giannarou, Saturday 23rd February 2013


Is it possible for a birth to be illegal? Is a woman’s right to give birth the way she wants and with whoever she wants by her side recognised in Greece? Recent events have brought these questions to the forefront, opening discurse for the natural birth and the enemies of it in our country.


Last Tuesday, for first time in Greece, a court in Thessaloniki convicted a midwife and a healthcare provider for “bodily harm by way of negligence” because a woman who gave birth at home suffered a perineal tear at the point where a preventive episiotomy would usually be performed maternity units.


The accusations


The case triggers unprecedented research by the public services, in relation to which the Body for Health and Welfare Inspectors of Μacedonia and Thrace recorded every doctor, midwife, and parent who have recently been involved in homebirths in Northern Greece. After the people associated wth the charges – which are normal birth practices - had been profiled, they were brought to trial. They number six doctors, a midwife (the same one who was convicted on Tuesday) and 71 parents, the majority of whom did not even been called to apologise. The doctors are accused of “false medical certification”, the parents of “incitement of false medical certification” and the midwife for “environmental pollution”. The accusation for environmental pollution, of which the majority of the defendants are accused, is based on placental disposal, which is characterised as “abortional waste which compromises the public health” by the authorities. As is very well known, many those who choose to give birth at home bury the placenta and plant a tree on top of it, as a symbol of maternal connection with the child. The trial is arranged for 11th June at the criminal court of Thessaloniki.


“It is definitelly a coordinated attack on homebirth and natural birth in general. Peineal tears, such as the one the midwife was convicted for, are regarded to be absolutely normal at maternity units. There would not be any chance for her to be convicted, nor arraigned, nor sued, nor would the case itself be reported, if it had happened at a hospital ”, claims Ilektra Koutra, the lawyer represnting the midwife reports to “Κathimerini”. “Indeed taking this case as an excuse, an effort is being made to connect homebirth with felonies and illegal acts, such as the enviromental pollution caused by the disposal of the placenta.”. As she stresses, there is not a child who has died or suffered serious harm during a homebirth in Greece.


It is worth noting that the main “prosecutor” at the midwife’s trial, and the referrence of the 78 to trial, is the president of Thessaloniki Guild of Midwives. “We realise that in Greece insumountable hurdles are block the right of women to choose the conditions in which they give birth, enroaching upon International Law and rulings of the European Court of Human Rights”, says Koutra.


The case is expected to reach the European courts, as the following days a mass petition will be lodged at the European Court by a group of Greek mothers-to-be and young mothers, for encroaching upon the fundamental right to self-determination. Specifically, the women claims that they are victimized, because they are not in a state to choose freely the conditions of their birth, something which has been strictly recognised as a human right according to the recent desicion of the European Court of Human Rights, Ternovsky v. Hungary. “How is it possible for a woman to choose to give birth at home if her midwife or the woman herself is in danger of prosecution?”, explains Koutra, who has taken on the petition. “Unfortunately, some do not seem to realise the fact that the fight for free choice and self-determination of women, especially during such a sacred moment of their lives, are nobody’s commercial concern”.

link to the article in Greek language: http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_ell_2_23/02/2013_512187