published: 28.08.2013, 09:56 | updated: 28.08.2013 09:58:06
Brno - The Czech Constitutional Court (US) today annulled the verdict upon midwife Ivana Koenigsmarkova, who was given a two-year suspended sentence for a fatal mistake during a home birth, over the lack of evidence and doubts about her guilt.
The US returned the case to a lower-level Prague district court for reappraisal.
Prague courts gave Konigsmarkova, president of the Midwives' Association, a two-year suspended sentence with a five-year probation and banned her from working as a midwife for five years.
Besides, she had to cover the health insurer's costs of the baby's treatment amounting to some 2.7 million crowns.
According to the charges, Koenigsmarkova assisted in a complicated home birth in Prague in July 2009 though she did not hold the necessary authorisation for it.
She was not sufficiently informed about the mother's previous deliveries that were accompanied by complications, she neglected the problems before and during the delivery and she did not send the woman to a maternity hospital, the courts concluded.
Moreover, the midwife did not have the necessary equipment and conditions for performing a home birth independently, they ruled.
The newborn baby boy suffered an irreversible brain damage due to the lack of oxygen during the delivery. He was transported to a maternity hospital in a critical condition and survived only with the aid of a medical apparatus. He died later aged 20 months.
An expert opinion was the key piece of evidence in the trial of Koenigsmarkova. It said she did not recognise that a doctor's assistance was necessary during the delivery.
A Prague district court found her guilty of causing a deadly injury negligently for which she was given a suspended sentence.
Koenigsmarkova appealed the verdict saying she had not made any professional mistake. Her defence counsel argued that she had always accepted only women without health troubles and that the mother had not told her about her previous complications.
However, the appeals court upheld the previous verdict and the Supreme Court rejected her appellate review as unsubstantiated last September. This is why she filed a complaint with the US that annulled all verdicts in the case.
According to available statistics, the number of home childbirths has increased almost ten times in the past 20 years in the Czech Republic.
The Health Ministry, the Czech Doctors´ Chamber (CLK) as well as gynaecologists and obstetricians have long been opposed to home births arguing that they are a too high unnecessary risk for both the mother and the new-born baby.
Czech law does not ban home births but health insurers do not cover them.
Supporters of home births point to allegedly expedient criminalisation of midwives who assist in them.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will deal with the case of home births in the Czech Republic.
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