12 APRIL 1935, Page 36


• By Dame Janet Campbell

Dame Janet Campbell, who was forrrierly Senior Medical Officer for Maternity and Child .Welfare to the Ministry of Health, is one of the most level-headed, sympathetic and understanding of doctorg, having successfully resisted the often sterilizing influence of some decades of Whitehall. This admirable booklet (Faber and Faber, .-1S.) exemplifies her sanity of thought and of expression. It is truly authoritative, because the authoress's experience is great and her impar- tiality profound. Our maternal mortality statistics are cer- tainly disturbing, and are even more so tcday than they were a quarter of a century agO. In 1911, the puerperal mortality rate in England and Wales was 3.87 for every thousand live births registered. Since that time extensive " reforms " in midwifery practice have taken place ; the principles of asepsis have been more strictly observed ; the economic status of the average mother has been greatly improved ; and yet the maternal mortality rate had, by 1933, instead of decreasing, actually increased to 4.51 per thousand live births registered. It is important that the public should be familiarized with these facts ; but it seems to be one of the lamentable consequences of candour in a democratic State that politicians nearly always exploit statistical facts for private, party, or other " tendentious " ends. The tragic maternal mortality statistics have been, during the last one or two decades, exploited in this way. Every kind of scape- goat has been condemned—from the general medical prac- titioner to poverty and unemployment. We shall never solve this problem—or, indeed, any problem—along such lines. It is not thus that the victories of science or of art have been won. Dame Janet Campbell has no axe to grind, no heads she wants cut off. Her booklet will, if it is sufficiently widely read, render a very great service to the cause of sane, practical thinking ; and so help to lessen a persistent human tragedy.