Category Archives: Not buried twice

Midwife kills mother and baby: has moved overseas and is still practising

I found a report of a out-of-hospital death in New Zealand. A mother with multiple risk factors was attempting a water birth when she collapsed. The baby and the mother both died as a result. The coroner has pointed out that the deaths could have been prevented at multiple points in the care being given, but that the midwife’s training and experience was inadequate for her to even recognize what happened.

The typical building blocks of a charlatan are present:

When giving evidence for the coroner’s inquest, the [midwife] came across as “confident, capable, intelligent and articulate”, the findings said. “If she had a fault it was an overweening confidence in her own ability.”

The court heard she was “very well regarded” and had worked hard to re-establish her professional reputation.

The midwife who was lead maternity carer has moved overseas and is still practising.

Is this your midwife? You’ll never know. There is a permanent supression order that bars the press from mentioning her name. Having killed a few people doesn’t seem to have dampened her enthusiasm for delivering babies. After all, she is a confident person.

The other midwives in New Zealand are not using the coroner’s recommendations about midwifery education to prevent the next tragedy, instead they are digging themselves in deeper by dismissing his criticisms altogether.

[The coroners]’ comments came after his provisional findings were sent to the Midwifery Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand College of Midwives.

[The coroner] slammed remarks made by Karen Guilliland from the New Zealand College of Midwives who accused the court of relying on ill-informed medical opinion.

Similarly, [the coroner] said although the Midwifery Council of New Zealand criticised his findings, they did not provide an alternative explanation for the “errors of judgement and failures to follow proper midwifery practice that occurred in this case”.

It is the same story I have seen all over, midwives have a craven disregard for the deaths of people at home births. They cannot accept responsibility or a change in their natural child birth dogma, so they simply reject any information that could be used to help future cases. This is the opposite of a profession.

the deaths we don’t hear about

I’ve tried very hard to track home birth deaths (mostly via the internet and news papers), and it is a very difficult task. I know that many women who lost their babies to home birth do not believe the deaths were preventable, and don’t wish to sully the reputation of home birth by sharing their stories in public. There are others who understandably want to keep their grief private for reasons unrelated to choosing a home birth. I’ve had to ignore a lot of the home birth deaths I’ve found because a state and year were not available to properly catalog them on the home birth fatality map

However, there are statistics available to give the public an idea of how many of babies die as a result of home births and natural child birth ideology. 

 MANA (Midwives Alliance of North America) released the results of a non-random survey recently. They call it a “study” when it is nothing of the sort. It is a voluntary survey with less than half of participants staying with the project until its completion. Data was voluntarily reported on 16,000 births. The results of the MANA stats project under-represents the number of home birth related deaths, but I will still use these numbers to give home birth midwives the best chance to prove that their practices are safe.

According to an independent statistician, the results of MANA’s project are as follows:

So, for a comparable group of infants born in the hospital, with congenital abnormalities excluded, the combined neonatal and intrapartum death rate is at most 0.7 per thousand. The combined neonatal and intrapartum death rate for the MANA STATS group, with congenital abnormalities excluded, was 2.06 per thousand, which is significantly higher. (p<.0001, highly statistically significant.)

In other words, the expected number of deaths from causes other than congenital anomalies was at most 12, and the actual number of deaths was 35 (44 with anomalies included). It is clear that home birth substantially increases the risk of neonatal death and of intrapartum death.

According to the CDC the rate of out of hospital birth was 1.36% nationally as of 2012.

According to the CDC 3,952,841 births were registered in the U.S. in 2012.

1.36% of 3,952,841 is 53,759 births. 

If you use MANA’s overly optimistic numbers, 110 babies died at home births in 2102. The rate of death for the same number of babies in the hospital is 38. 110 minus 38 equals 72.

That means at least 72 babies died because they were born at home that year. It is likely more. Midwives who have multiple adverse outcomes likely chose to keep their data to themselves. 

I also know that there is no real tracking of the deaths that are caused by Unassisted Child Birth (also called “free birth”), and that freebirthers are encouraged to lie to authorities if their baby dies. They say they just couldn’t get to the hospital in time. I know that a midwife can make a birth more or less dangerous by being there- sometimes a UC mom will go to the hospital when a midwife would have discouraged doing so, or vice versa. There is no doubt that these deaths are overwhelmingly the result of natural child birth philosophy.

There is not any information on how many midwives failed to attend a birth that ended in death as a result, despite knowing that this can and does happen to mothers. Dreah Louis and Vylette’s mother both lost a baby this way. It does not seem possible for midwives to report on a birth that they weren’t even there for. 

The skeptical OB, who is very good at finding and posting about home birth deaths, only found 23 in 2012. Less than half of the minimum that could be expected.

Some people may be thinking that it is hard to use statistics for a five year period on any given year, but home birth midwifery doesn’t really change. Like all pseudoscience it has no advances, and practitioners believe things are fine the way they are.  

I am sure other people are saying that 72 deaths is too small a number to be concerned about. 34 children died of heat stroke from being left in cars in 2012, and the outrage over the deaths is considerable. The issue with deaths from home birth or being left in cars isn’t the number, its that they were completely preventable, and that parents have a duty to protect their children from preventable deaths. This is just an estimate of a single year, these tragedies are repeated each and every year.

Reading a number doesn’t really do justice to what these deaths mean. I am going to try and represent them visually, by posting 72 pairs of baby shoes. Each pair represents the unfulfilled hopes of parents for their children’s first step, first word, first everything.

baby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoesbaby shoes


name changes for negligent midwives

The skeptical OB has an article up about negligent midwives changing their names as to deceive their customers.

It happened to me, too. Ester Werbach now goes by “Nueve Lunas Maternity” on the internet. The Utah Midwive’s Association is well aware of it, and my complaints of sexual misconduct, and continue to support my abuser. They don’t care.

These types of actions also make it impossible for women to research their care provider. If you have a health care provider that has killed negligently, had their license suspended, or otherwise been reprimanded their patients have a right to know. Midwives rob women of the opportunity to know what they are getting into.

it wouldn’t happen to me

I did a lot of research before choosing an out of hospital birth, and unlike a lot of women I know who also did a lot of research, I looked at the anti-home birth side of things to try and get information about their position. I read hurt by home birth and skeptical ob mostly, because I thought those blogs were the only game in town (they aren’t, here is an alternative that is much less abrasive).

I read the stories of midwives doing unspeakable negligence on hurt by home birth. I came up with all kinds of reasons it wouldn’t happen to me.  I remember the things I told myself.

I thought garbage like “Those women should have researched their provider more. They should have discussed specific issues and wishes ahead of time. Its very sad that it happened but it doesn’t mean anything about home birth or midwives as a whole. They could have had a sadistic, horrible time in the hospital too”. Etc etc. Some of these justifications have a grain of truth in them.  You can be abused in the hospital, but at least you and your baby are more likely to live. You can be abused in the hospital, but at least you have a chance of actually collecting damages because providers are insured.

I felt that it was a small increase in absolute risk, which is true for some pregnancies and not so true for others. I was a first time mother so there were a lot of variables I couldn’t definitively answer for. I put my faith in midwives and the process of birth.

I remember taking walks and listening to hypnobabies, especially the birth affirmations tape. I remember being post dates and strutting around, repeating “babies are born when they are ready, not when doctors say they should be” to myself from the tape. Part of me knew it felt vaguely cult-like to have to repeat things to myself over and over again. I brushed it off. Part of the natural child birth mantra is to believe that your feelings affect labor. It functions the same way that cults do, they teach members to police their thoughts, they teach them that doubt is a sin. In natural child birth, fear is a sin. You aren’t allowed to be afraid. If something goes wrong, other cult members will blame your fear for what happened.

I had been a skeptic for so long that I hadn’t been scammed for many, many years. I thought I was on top of my game. I know now that people who think they are not able to be fooled are the easiest to fool. It keeps me humble and on my toes to know this now.

I am lucky enough that everyone got out of the birth physically healthy.  Every time I see a new home birth tragedy I feel my stomach churn. I look at my child- healthy and alive, and think “it could have been us”. It easily could have been.

I am grateful for the opportunity to see the error of my ways. If everything had worked out I would probably be in the ranks of other natural child birth advocates, insufferably gushing about my perfect birth as if it would make me better somehow than anyone else. I may have been permanently damaged by home birth midwives, but at least I’m trying to learn from my mistakes. Home birth midwives just try to cover up their mistakes or pretend they never happened. 

The reason the #notburiedtwice campaign exists

The reason the #notburiedtwice campaign exists

I came across a link for a radio show called Progressive Parenting, which decided to discuss the Vickie Sorensen manslaughter case. They had someone from the human rights in childbirth campaign and Katie McCall of Our Sisters in Chains. These women are trying to bury the memory of the baby that died a preventable death in Utah, they are trying to make sure people do nothing in response to the deaths.

The focus of the show was how prosecution of midwives for attending preventable deaths would affect the community. There are a few major claims in the show that are questionable:

Claim #1 is that Doctors are never charged with manslaughter for killing a patient.

It took me one google to debunk that, there are many cases of physicians being charged with manslaughter when they have done something incredibly negligent. The reason that doctors or midwives are charged with manslaughter is that their negligence was so egregious that it could be considered criminal. I think it is safe to say home birth midwives are more likely to do something outrageously negligent because of their dogmatic belief system about the nature of birth combined with paranoia about being persecuted. The women on the show complain that physicians only have to worry about being sued, but are not in favor of mandatory insurance for midwives so that they too could “just” be sued in the case of a death. If midwives want to be sued instead of charged they should carry insurance. The ones with risky practices cannot secure insurance because insurance companies know the risk involved would make for a very high rate for services, and midwives cannot charge prices high enough to justify the insurance cost. Its common sense that if you do a risky job then you open yourself up to these problems, but midwives and natural childbirth advocates believe that they should be exempt from the rules that the rest of us have to play by. They want all the glory of being a physician without any of the responsibility, which leads me to the next claim.

Claim #2 is that home birth midwives are experts in vaginal birth and should be regarded as such by the medical community.

The women on the show praise Utah’s midwifery laws, despite the fact that you need no training or experience to become a home birth midwife in the state. They later refer to Utah as a ‘haven’ for midwives because the law is so lax. I don’t know how they can claim that our laws are great because they require nothing of people who want to practice home birth midwifery, but then demand that untrained or undertrained midwives be regarded as experts in childbirth. Physicians are sick and tired of cleaning up after the mistakes made by lay people and have a negative view of home birth midwives for a reason. I’ve noted before how a non-nurse midwife’s complete ignorance of electronic fetal monitoring makes them unable to detect distress patterns outside of brachycardia, and likely explains the wealth of intrapartum deaths that home birth midwives preside over that are completely unheard of in a hospital setting (the long labor, heart rate was fine, then suddenly the baby is dead story you’ve seen so many times before). The human rights in childbirth rep says that collegiality needs to be in place so that the midwife and hospital can trade info, but if you’ve read From Calling to Courtroom (the guide for home birth midwives to avoid liability) you know the standard advice to avoid liability is to make a chart in your own special code that only you understand.

Do not chart emergency medical procedures. Use a “made up” code that only YOU understand. Don’t ever think it can’t happen to you. I believe I was careful BEFORE I was prosecuted. I am even more careful now.


-Chapter 1 of From Calling to Courtroom

It is absolutely impossible to take information from someone in this profession seriously because there have been so many cases where home birth midwives lied to the hospital, EMTs, police, etc.

Claim #3 Anyone working with birth is bound to see a ‘bad outcome’.

Lets assume that by bad outcome they mean a newborn death, since that is the case being discussed on the show. Vickie Sorensen was a midwife for over 30 years, and has delivered ‘over 1000 babies” (according to her fundraiser page). Contrast that with an OBGYN, which would take about six years to get that number of births (delivering 140-180 or so babies a year). OBGYNs still manage to lose significantly fewer babies in the hospital despite taking on cases where newborn death can be expected.  It seems to me that if most OBGYNs were working at the same pace as home birth midwives, and could be as selective in choosing their patients, that they would be extremely unlikely to see an unexpected perinatal death. The culture of home birth has a creepy way of trying to normalize preventable newborn deaths as being unpreventable, but the numbers say something different. The vast majority of home birth deaths can be prevented.

Claim #4 There is an anti-home birth agenda that causes unmerited arrests of midwives and causes the media to falsely report information.

I’ve never actually seen a midwife be exonerated after being accused of manslaughter or homicide, so unless the agenda extends to juries its a bit hard to take seriously. A lot of evidence would need to be produced to support this claim, which is essentially a conspiracy theory to try and excuse the allegations against midwives. I’ve seen no evidence of it anywhere. It seems as though this would be a pretty low priority target, considering the minority of births are taking place out of hospitals. I’ve pointed out why I believe in the charges against VIckie Sorensen, and I talk specifics exactly because I know that these natural child birth advocates won’t. Its a manipulation tactic to keep things vague.

Claim # 5 The right of midwives to practice is about the right of women to choose when and how they give birth.

I find this incredibly dishonest and appropriative of legitimate feminist issues. This is and always has been about letting midwives do whatever they please without accountability. People who are actual feminists think that women deserve to have skilled birth attendants who can actually adequately explain risk vs benefit to them, not a bunch of anti-vaccine nutjobs who idealize the history of human child birth, despite its high mortality rate. Letting midwives get away with being unaccountable and untrained means that we are letting women fall into the trap of charlatans, and many of them are choosing home birth because of fear of hospitals or a lack of finances.

Claim# 6- if midwives have restrictions placed on them, women will have to choose between c-sections and unassisted birth.

Of course this is a false dichotomy, there is a lot of space between those two things. Many hospitals have tried to incorporate as many features of home birth as they can into birth centers attached to hospitals. You could have a vaginal unmedicated birth in a hospital.  Illegal home births attended by midwives happen all the time.

The claim here supposes that going unassisted is much worse than having a midwife, a claim that is false in many cases. Midwives have a mantra of ‘trust birth’, and it means that they are more likely to say that everything is fine when there is a real risk or a real problem happening. There have been many times where home birth midwives prevented transport or insisted it wasn’t needed while the patient knew that they needed urgent help. Midwives have a history of making things much worse than they needed to be.