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Compassion and kindness

02 February 2021
Volume 29 · Issue 2


Can midwives be taught how to be kind and compassionate? George F Winter investigates

Significant among the dispiriting catalogue of midwifery and obstetric issues that were identified in the review of 250 maternity services cases at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust, is the revelation on page 11 that ‘[o]ne of the most disappointing and deeply worrying themes that has emerged is the reported lack of kindness and compassion from some members of the maternity team at the Trust’ (Ockenden report, 2020).

‘Disappointing and deeply worrying’ most certainly, and I sought refuge in the thought that this finding represented no more than an outlier. Yet we cannot ignore the warning from the World Health Organization ([WHO], 2014) that ‘[m]any women experience disrespectful and abusive treatment during childbirth in facilities worldwide. Such treatment not only violates the rights of women to respectful care but can also threaten their rights to life, health, bodily integrity and freedom from discrimination’.

It is not my intention to comment on the Ockenden report but to consider instead the nature of kindness and compassion that the report highlights. One might assume that such concepts need no further elaboration in the context of midwifery but are central to the proper functioning of high quality maternity care. However, the documented experiences of childbearing women do not always support such assumptions.

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