Midwives and malpractice

Our lady the midwife Η κυρά μας η μαμή 1958

This Ben Whitley piece is not all that convincing to me. My experience is that doctors are all too eager to punish the same outcomes with midwives they would excuse in physicians. Birth isn’t 100% predictable, as ob-gyns are happy to point out when it suits them:

In light of what is being called the biggest malpractice settlement in 10 years, midwives and doulas are being called out by medical professionals and the general public for lack of training, as well as little recourse when things go wrong. If midwives want to practice as physicians then they should be prepared to carry the same risks as trained medical professionals.

Even though most births under the care of a midwife are successful, some do go wrong and can produce devastating consequences. The question must be asked, for the ones that do go wrong, could they have been prevented and, if so, do the injured families have any recourse for the malpractice?

An Oregon couple received a $13 million settlement for their son, delivered by midwives at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, in what is being called a botched water birth. This settlement is the largest in a decade for a hospital birth malpractice case.

The family’s lawyer, Rich Rogers said the couple was informed by the midwives that the mother was an ideal candidate for a safe water birth, when in fact she was not, due to the baby having an abnormal fetal heart rate upon entering the hospital.

The midwives, however, made the decision to continue with the scheduled water birth. Because the mother was submerged in water, the baby’s heart rate remained unmonitored throughout the labor.

The suit alleges that if the midwives had realized the issue with his heart rate, the mother could have had a C-section. The baby, now four years old, was born with cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation at birth and is unable to walk or talk.

Some couples, however, have not been successful with a lawsuit. Another unsuspecting couple from Ohio had their baby delivered by a midwife, and the baby unfortunately died as a result of respiratory failure.

They claim this could have been avoided if the midwife had given attention to the warning signs and had the proper training to deal with the complication. They attempted to sue for malpractice, but were unsuccessful due to the midwife not carrying insurance.

Many midwives and doulas are practicing medicine unlicensed and without being monitored by medical professionals. Furthermore, it is generally not required for them to carry malpractice insurance, so in the unfortunate event of medical negligence, many unsuspecting people are left without options.

It is quite common for women to choose water births and prefer to be under the care of a midwife. In making this decision, however, it is important for these women to understand the risks as well as the benefits, and be made aware of other alternatives. The midwives caring for these women also need to be held liable to the same standard as licensed medical professionals.