Utah health department: Home birth kills babies that would otherwise have lived

The Utah Health Department released a study on home birth, and it mirrors the findings of the data released in Oregon several years ago by Judith Rooks (CNM).

According to page 10 of the document, neonatal deaths in home birth happened at a rate 2.3 x the rate of hospital births. The statistics go on to note that the home birth deaths were reviewed by a committee which states that at least half of the home birth deaths were “strongly” considered to be preventable (meaning those babies would have survived had they been born in hospital). The remainder still had evidence of being preventable, just not as strong of evidence as the other half. None of the cases were considered to be completely unpreventable. The home birth fatalities were attended by midwives, midwives who likely told their clients that home birth is as safe as hospital birth.

What is shocking is that these findings actually skew the data in favor of home birth midwives- the real numbers are likely much worse. For instance, women that transfer to the hospital too late will have their babies death counted as a hospital death instead of a home birth death. You can read more in the “limitations” section of the document.

Here is all the proof anyone should ever need, in black and white- home birth in Utah kills infants that would otherwise have lived. Please refer to my Action Guide at the top of the page if you want to change things for the better.

UPDATE: this large peer reviewed study found nearly the same results. The authors have admitted to soft balling the risk in order to spare themselves the ire of the home birth community.

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Another baby dies in a Utah home birth, and the mother is a home birth midwife

Camille Sorensen Wilcox, a Utah home birth midwife, is burying one of her sons. She was pregnant with twin boys and one of them did not make it because of complications from the birth. Camille is the daughter of Vickie Sorensen, who is currently facing manslaughter charges for presiding over a DIFFERENT twin birth that also resulted in a death.

Camille was actively involved in the death at her mother’s birth center according to media reports, she made phone calls on behalf of the birth center and seems to have been there when the fatality happened, as well as this near miss with a twin that would not breathe after birth.

Why on earth would Wilcox risk her son’s life at a home birth after seeing twins die, or nearly die, at deliveries outside of the hospital? Babies that needed life saving equipment that is only available at a hospital?

Camille Wilcox, as a home birth midwife, is brainwashed into thinking that birth is “as safe as life gets”, that twin births are “a variation of normal” instead of a risk factor. A midwife has a responsibility to her patients to communicate the risk of a choice accurately, but in the case of home birth midwives they don’t even believe the risk is there, so they cannot reliably tell you about it. This is why home birth needs to be regulated. Usually when a baby dies at a home birth I see people blaming the mother, saying she was uneducated or picked the wrong midwife, but this mother is a midwife whose lineage is midwifery, whose mother delivers babies with her. This proves that no amount of “education” in home birth midwifery, or “natural child birth”, will protect children whose mothers choose to have a baby at home. Home birth midwives are a risk to the public health of newborns in Utah.

Camille was warned directly of the risks inherent in a twin pregnancy. You can see her mocking an OBGYN’s warning on facebook here:

camille wilcox obgyn

(the image reads “Ok, so I had an OB pull the “mortality rate goes up at 38 weeks” card on me this week, and I was wondering- What EXACTLY is the mortality rate for di/di twins before 38 weeks, and after? Gail Hart?) 

Gail Hart is another midwife. I am sure that the Midwifery Community assured her that she was fine to have a baby at home, because that’s what midwives do even in the face of unquestionable danger, like these midwives (including a Utah midwife) did in another case that ALSO lead to a fatality.

Now the family is asking for funds to bury their child. Like most home birth disasters an emergency transport was required but did not stave off the inevitable.

camille wilcox transportation cost

On a related note, Vickie Sorensen is still committed to delivering babies. Her trial was postponed until January, and she made this announcement (AFTER the death of her grandson in a home birth in June, mind you):

vickie sorensen still working

I have reached out to the Utah Midwive’s Organization for a statement about the appropriateness of twin births being attended at home but I’m not optimistic about getting a response. From all outward appearances this looks very bad for midwifery because babies are dying left and right in home births and no one wants to be responsible for it. This underscores just how little deaths affect practice standards. If a baby dies from a practice in a hospital and the hospital is alerted, the hospital changes the policy. Midwives just ignore when the data shows they are causing death or injury and double down on their beliefs. Statistics show that home birth will be a victim of its own popularity- the more babies born at home, the more babies will die in completely preventable ways, spurring change. If people band together and become politically active perhaps that can be avoided and home birth fatalities can be prevented by legislation. Each death is a life shattered, a baby dying in agony, siblings who will never meet their brother or sister, empty arms of parents and broken heart. Preventing even one death is a worthy cause. If you feel moved to do something about the state of home birth in Utah please use the action guide at the top of the page.

Utah Midwives are afraid of this website

I am currently being threatened with legal action unless I hand over my blogs to a midwife’s attorney, they are demanding that I agree to never speak of them negatively again. They have never actually told me what was wrong on my website (as I am eager to correct any errors), or why they would need access to ex home birthers. They are threatened by someone pointing out the truth about direct entry midwifery in the state of Utah.

I will not be bullied into silence. I have the first amendment right to talk about my political beliefs and to lobby for changes to the law in my state. I’m willing to fight this as long as necessary to let parents in Utah know that there are more legal requirements for driving a car than calling yourself a midwife and delivering babies. 

If anything goes down I will be contacting Ken White of Popehat, who has been extremely effective at finding pro-bono help for bloggers who have been sued to try and curtail freedom of speech. I’m prepared for whatever happens. 

Not even sorry

I’ve covered the VIckie Sorensen manslaughter charges extensively before, but I thought readers might be interested in the absolute lack of remorse on vickie’s part for her role in the death of a newborn.

vickie sorensen cheers to my haters

vickie sorensen witch cartoon

 

vickie sorensen haters

vickie sorensen status stringing up midwives

She also made a point of accusing valley view medical center of having a conspiracy against home birth mothers.

valley view medical center accusations

 

unlicensed midwives and their dangerous practices

Here is a look at how one unlicensed midwife chose to operate (likely due to the lack of accountability for her actions). This part is telling:

She practices near one of the largest Amish communities in the US in a state where lay midwives operate in a “gray area” legally. She likes it that way because the Amish women don’t question her, trust her implicitly, and will not pursue litigation or repercussions of any kind. They call her for any kind of medical questions they have, even outside of women’s health, and she freely dispenses medical advice over the phone without seeing the patient in question. Sometimes her advice even contradicts a doctor’s advice. . .guess whose opinion carries the most weight?

If you think that Utah midwives are operating any differently…you are in for a surprise.

practicing medicine I have already covered some midwives practicing medicine in my posts titled “seriously?” and “seriously? part 2“, but above is a post from the vickie sorensen support page talking about the same behavior from a midwife who was recently charged with manslaughter in connection with a baby’s death. They are using the words of people who openly discuss vickie sorensen acting outside her scope of practice, and they think that proves that she is a wonderful person instead of an irresponsible person. This seems to absolutely be the norm for midwives, although when they lobby for legislation to keep unlicensed midwifery legal, they claim that midwifery is different from medicine. They have to claim that. If they told the truth then it would logically follow that they need to obtain a license and insurance to practice.

midwives respond to the newest preventable death

There are many anonymous donors on  Vickie Sorensen’s gofundme page, but there are some midwives that aren’t afraid to lend their name to the ’cause’ of supporting a midwife who allegedly lied to EMTs about her patients condition as she almost died from blood loss, and they are:

Darby Partner

Jessica Weed*

Melissa Valet

Susan DiNatale

Katharine McCall*

Juanita Michelle Gober

Marcene Rebeck*

*The names with asterisks are midwives who have been prosecuted in different states for negligence of various sorts. I’ve linked to the cases on their names, you can click to see for yourself that none of them were exonerated.

Most of the other donors are former patients, other birth workers (like birth photographers, doulas, etc), and anonymous donors.  They have managed to post Vickie Sorensen’s bail, and so they raised the gofundme goal to 80,000 (likely for her legal fees).

So far I haven’t seen any midwives condemn the laws that allowed this to happen. I’ve only seen them try to put a good face on this and pretend that most midwives follow a reasonable standard of practice, when I’ve pointed out before that most do not.  The norm is midwives making up their own rules and their patients remain blissfully unaware of it unless a problem arises. Most Utah midwives, including midwifery school owners, are against vaccinations and are far outside their scope of practice by discouraging vaccination in their patients.

The salt lake tribune is the biggest news outlet reporting on the charges against Vickie Sorensen, and their comments section has a few midwives willing to put their name on the line to pretend that legislation would solve nothing in these situations. Tara Workman Tulley, political candidate for city council in Springville, Utah, was among the most vocal in support of keeping things exactly the same as they are now.

tara tulley most midwives would not

First she starts with a statement that “most” midwives would transfer this case, and that this is not considered “normal practice” for midwifery care. In reality there is no standard for midwifery care, so this statement is entirely based on her personal opinion of what other midwives would do, rather than any actual data.  I get the feeling that Tara will say anything so long as it helps the “cause” of keeping midwives unlegislated.

What is particularly alarming is that she only thinks “most” midwives would transfer, rather than “virtually everyone” or “all competent midwives”. This should be alarming to the general public- Tara Tulley runs a midwifery school and trains other midwives.  Tara is vice president of the Utah Midwives Association. She started a political committee to respond to the last death caused by negligence, and she clearly felt that it was persecution. Her acceptance of this conduct is deplorable in light of that fact.

tara tulley against licensing

In subsequent posts, Tara Tulley pretends that Vickie Sorensen is worse off as an unlicensed midwife, and therefore not licensing midwives is the rational thing to do. It would be a good argument except for the fact that Vickie Sorensen and other Utah midwives only feel comfortable taking high risk pregnancies like twins, premature, vbac, etc because they have legally done so before, or because they know there is no legal consequence for taking these cases in and of themselves. The legal consequences only emerge when there is clear negligence, like in this case (refusing to call an ambulance, interfering when they did show up, etc). Taking on births that should never reasonably be attended at home is not a legal problem in the state of utah unless the midwife does something else to merit an arrest. It doesn’t matter if the baby lives or dies. Licensing of midwives would prevent this, it would punish them for taking on cases they should not *regardless* of outcome, and insuring of midwives would make sure that even negligent midwives who break the rules would be able to pay for the damages that they have caused. Tara Tulley is against any legislation of midwives.

tara tulley voluntary standards

At this point Tara Tulley acknowledged that the standards that are available in direct entry midwifery are entirely voluntary. People can follow them, or not. Throughout the comments on the salt lake tribune she pretends that this is the norm in other medical professions. She conflates other medical professionals breaking the rules as a case for foregoing standards, when in fact it evidences the opposite case. Punishment for deviation from protocols should be swift and harsh as to discourage such behavior. She has stated before that she prefers a mentorship style program to actual legislation aimed at protecting people from clearly negligent midwives.

tara supports dangerous midwives cropped

This is her (ridiculous) solution to the problem- mentorship. She calls it ‘responsible inclusion’, but what I call it is using pregnant women as guinea pigs, and then being unable to pay when you damage them. If you don’t know what you are doing, you shouldn’t practice midwifery. Period. No matter how skilled you are you need insurance in case you hurt someone on accident. Its become clear to me that virtually none of the midwives in Utah know what they are doing, and that is probably because there is no central body governing evidence based practices. There desperately needs to be a change in the situation of direct entry midwifery in utah.

I’ve contacted the utah midwive’s association for an official statement on the Vickie Sorensen situation. I will update this post if and when they respond (or fail to).

 

Vickie Sorensen’s victims should not be buried twice

Dr Amy Tutuer of the Skeptical OB has a very apt saying about home birth deaths- the babies get buried twice. First in the ground by their parents, and then by the home birth midwives who wish to bury the memory of what happened. It does not have to be that way- take action, call your legislators and let them know that you don’t find it acceptable that its harder to legally drive a car than it is to legally deliver a baby in our state.

It may seem like common sense that the law changes after this, that legislators will wake up to the problems with voluntary licensing and voluntary insurance for midwives, but that did not happen last time a horrific home birth death happened in Utah (at the hands of serially negligent midwife Valerie El Halta). The reason nothing changed is that Utah midwives stand up for each other regardless of how heinous their actions might have been. Right now, instead of asking themselves how this could have been allowed to happen or how to prevent it the next time, they are raising funds for Vickie Sorensen’s defense. They are denying reality by trying to say that this is persecution or that there is no merit to any of the charges (we will have to wait and see, but I have yet to see a midwife charged in a case like this that is let free- there are simply too many witnesses in home birth deaths).

They also have a leg up because legislators like Holly Richardson support home birth, even after the bill she passed cost a life (now we know its cost many more than that). I brought this to her attention and she ignored me and my concerns. She is running for house district 57 in pleasant grove, and will no doubt push the home birth agenda if she is elected. She is a major reason this state of affairs exists in the first place, but she has washed her hands of all responsibility. You will see that she more or less blames parents for not being diligent enough in checking references, but in both Utah home birth deaths the midwives in question have glowing reviews from a large number of people and professional achievement (El Halta wrote for Midwifery Today, Vickie Sorensen was integral to the original Utah Midwives Association). The Utah Midwives Association (now the Utah Midwives Organization) had a meeting about how to best cover this up and prevent any laws from being passed. The El Halta death happened very shortly before the legislative session opened so no one else was organized enough to change the law.  It seems that the lack of action from that death has unfortunately allowed other deadly midwives to operate legally.

These babies need you and me to contact everyone we can to try and prevent the next death. Midwives refuse to police themselves and prefer to have a total lack of supervision or guidelines for their practices. There is actually an official guide for home birth midwives to avoid accountability for deaths they attend, it is called From Calling to Courtroom. You can read it here. You will notice that a lot of what Vickie Sorensen is accused of doing- lying on medical records, interfering with EMTs, etc is encouraged in this book. This is standard operating procedure for home birth midwives.  You and I are the only thing standing between negligent midwives and the next preventable death- please help, it will only take a few minutes of your time.

You can sign a petition demanding licenses and insurance for midwives here.