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Midwives deserve better regulation

David O'Flynn (December 30) failed to identify any errors lurking in my letter (December 29).

The midwifery committee that Mr O'Flynn claims is new is a rehash of the old midwives committee, itself a sop in a Nurses Act that dissolved the 1944 Central Midwives Board.

Then, as now, that committee was toothless, subject to an overall board wherein midwifery was treated as a branch of nursing. The 2010 version is even weaker than its 1950 antecedent and can be dissolved at the drop of a hat.

Your correspondent is wrong to say that this legislation will only affect a small number of midwives: in continuing to subject midwives to a nursing regulator, the Nurses and Midwives Bill affects all practitioners. Section 40, moreover, restricts all midwives from offering their services independently, effectively making private practice illegal.

To say that there is nothing that prohibits midwives from attending home births is disingenuous. Only permitted home births can be attended. Section 40, unless amended, will have the effect of enforcing coercive rules in home birth that are so vague as to be open to abuse.

Your correspondent's attempt to link home birth in the 1950s with high infant death rates is spurious. Perinatal death rates in home births attended by midwives were significantly lower than in hospital births supervised by doctors.

No one has suggested that home-birth midwives should not be accountable, nor that they should not be indemnified. On the contrary: indemnity for all midwives -- on the same terms as those offered to consultant obstetricians -- should be mandatory.

Marie O'Connor
Rathdown Road, Dublin 7

Irish Independent