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Midwife Accused of Manslaughter Says Home Births on Trial

July 2, 1985

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) _ A Southern Illinois midwife, indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a newborn baby, says ″the right to choose″ is on trial in her upcoming case.

″I just hope this case helps bring about the day when there are safe, legal alternatives to hospital births,″ said Maggie Jihan, 28, of Makanda.

She was indicted Friday on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a baby boy born May 19 in Carbondale to Hanizah Hashim. The grand jury also charged Ms. Jihan with practicing midwifery without a license.

It is believed to be the first such prosecution in Illinois, said State’s Attorney John Clemons.

The indictment, made public Monday, accuses Ms. Jihan of acting in a reckless manner and failing to give adequate treatment to the infant.

The baby boy was dead on arrival at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and an autopsy found fecal material in the infant’s lungs, Clemons said. That material is normally discharged at birth.

Clemons says the indictment ″should not be associated with the controversy between home and hospital birth.″

″What is involved here is the practice of midwifery without a license in clear violation of the intent of the Illinois General Asembly, and the issue of Ms. Jihan’s alleged incompetence in the delivery process,″ he said Monday.

Under a 1963 Illinois law, even licensed midwives may practice only under the supervision of a physician. Ms. Jihan delivered the infant without a doctor present.

Ms. Jihan contends midwives should have the right to practice on their own - without a physician’s supervision - because the ″public has the right to a full range of choices″ for giving birth.

″Any alternative is as safe as the medical backup it gets,″ she said. ″Babies die in hospitals, too.″

Prosecutors said the parents of the baby who died are Moslems from Malaysia who did not seek a hospital birth for religious reasons.

The parents did not press charges against Ms. Jihan. But 30 nurses and nurses’ aides from Memorial Hospital’s labor and delivery department signed a petition after the baby’s death, asking that she be prosecuted.

Mrs. Jihan will be arraigned on Aug. 2, Clemons said.

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