Home Birth and a Journal’s Responsibility

I normally like to steer away from medical ethics, for a variety of reasons. But the following editorial in the Lancet, one of THE the leading medical journals in this world, really got my blood boiling.

Stripped of emotional content, the reason for, or maybe diagnosis of, my anger is set out here. Luckily other people did express their righteous anger, and managed to point out that the study underlying the Lancet’s comments, as well as their conclusion may have been flawed.

The sad thing, however, is that, though many will have read the original editorial, only a few will read the subsequent letters. Thus the myth that home birth is irresponsible and dangerous, and that safe birth can happen only in the hands (or instruments? or power?) of the medical profession, will have gotten another, unjustified, boost – chipping away, once more, at the already shaky recognition and awareness of women’s authority over their own bodies.

The Lancet is a world-renowned opinion leading journal. With that comes the responsibility to consider carefully both accuracy and consequences of making a statement. So, kudos to the Lancet for publishing these letters, but, still, shame on them for not being more careful in the first place.



  1. While I agree with your viewpoint completely (there are few absolutes in Medicine) I would still, like to say that in developing nations, home births are dangerous affairs, especially when administered in rural areas with poor medical infrastructure. I speak from experience when I say this, having served in rural India as a Medical Officer, albeit for a very short period of time. Some of the things that I saw made me feel that at this point, until better infrastructure is available even in the farthest of the far flung areas, home birthing is a risky proposition in the developing world.

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