Making Midwives Legal: Childbirth, Medicine and the Law, 2nd Edition
by Raymond DeVries
[1996, Ohio State University Press, Columbus, Ohio, 232 pages, paperback.]
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 42, Summer 1997, © 1997, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jill Cohen.]
Raymond Devries bases his research of midwifery regulation on Arizona, Texas and California state laws. The focal point is "what the states allow and what they prohibit, and the relationship between the statutes and the reality of day-to-day practice." He begins by maintaining that the relationship between the law and medicine is far from being interactive or cooperative. From there he looks at the emergence of midwifery regulation from a historical perspective, revealing its effect on the present-day quality of midwifery care both as a restrictive factor and a legitimizing factor. But the question remains: does making the practice of midwifery legal assure a proper future for midwifery?
Devries devotes an entire chapter to examining the consequences of grounding midwifery in law. Another chapter covers midwifery on trial, giving as an example a recent case heard in California.
I have recently come to accept that law, medicine and birth are intertwined; it is a reality of our times. But rather than get sidetracked by attempting to extricate ourselves from this entanglement, we need to assure that midwifery is protected and not prosecuted. In order to achieve this, we can learn to understand the basic principles of law as it pertains to birth and midwifery, and put them to use to protect our art. Making Midwives Legal will encourage midwives to stop and think rather than avoid or react.
The way American culture values birth has a great influence on midwifery. Devries cultural analysis in his epilogue gives good credit to midwifery-based care. There is also a very thorough reference section for the reader to draw upon, making this book a good resource for practitioners, educators.
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