Title: Pharaoh’s Midwives. A Retelling of the Nurse Midwives in Exodus
Author: Mark Darby RN
Publisher: Surprise Publishing at Smashwords
Reviewer: Elisabeth McNair-Johnston, RN RM (former project midwife)
What was it like?
This is a thought provoking story. We live in a world of diversity, different cultures, religions, political beliefs and yet to be cured diseases. Midwives, nurses, doctors as well as other healthcare workers increasingly face obstacles in the course of their work that cause them to reflect on their ethical perspective and moral convictions.
The first verses of the book of Exodus in the Bible tell a story about nurse midwives. They had been instructed to kill all male children due to the ruler, his politics and culture of the day. Mark Darby’s novel recounts the story of how these nurse midwives did not kill the male children as a result of their enlightenment, religious and moral convictions. He highlights the ethics of political and religious differences and the pressures faced not just by midwives but those who providing healthcare generally thousands of years ago. Surprisingly it’s a situation not so dissimilar from today in some parts of the world
In the present day midwives, nurses and others in healthcare continue to face similar issues in their practice and effort help people in places ravaged by war and pandemics. In the UK the consequences of FGM is still being addressed, a dreadful and extremely ethical issue. Ethical conundrums arise throughout the world brought about by war, politics, culture and diseases like Ebola.
Thousands of years ago in the Pharaonic era medical ethics didn’t exist, however in ancient Greece around 5BC the Hippocratic Oath was embraced by physicians. It highlighted the need for them not to harm those in their care. While this was more to prevent the “God Complex” amongst doctors, it has served to prompt ethical and reflective practice in other healthcare practitioners.
What were the highlights?
The novel focuses on the historical influences of culture and society faced by nurse midwives in the time of the Pharaohs over 3000 years ago. The characters are followed as they face seemingly insurmountable difficulties but manage hold true to their convictions and in doing so prevent a degree of genocide.
Strengths & weaknesses:
Pharaoh’s Midwives is timely in a world where division and derision make the provision of healthcare difficult, whether delivering babies, saving lives or both. Not just midwives but organisations like WHO, Medecins sans Frontieres and others, increasingly face obstacles when trying to help humanity.
While it is not referenced or particularly academic, the book is on a topic that has rarely been written about in this context.
Who should read it?
This book should draw a broad readership. Midwives and those in other areas of healthcare would find it most interesting.