Anti-vaccination culture (including homebirth) responsible for resurgence of measles

Here is a handy chart to show that anti-vaccine parents, encouraged by home birth midwives, have led to a historic increase in measles in the united states. It is no surprise that the Utah outbreak, which primarily affects unvaccinated people, has its origins in Orem, the home of the largest Utah out-of-hospital birth center.

If you are reading this and have not gotten an MMR vaccine for you children yet- please reconsider. Your decision affects people who cannot obtain vaccines for various reasons, and the public at large. Forbes magazine is even discussing the possibility of suing parents who pass vaccine preventable diseases onto other humans. Be careful.

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).


direct entry midwives: a public health menace

There is a curious overlap between anti-vaccination activists and midwives. It seems that it is hard to find a pro-vaccination midwife, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that vaccines are a fantastic way to prevent illness. Midwives will outright tell patients anti-vax propaganda during their pregnancy- I should know, it happened to me. The midwife telling me reasons not to get a flu shot did not know that the flu is a virus instead of a bacteria, and she also believed that getting the flu shot causes the flu. I looked into the Midwives College of Utah and The Community School of Midwifery to see if midwives are actually being trained to reject vaccines or not. I could not find any vaccine specific information. But did I find an inadequate level of training for them to make any recommendations about vaccinations. The health courses that midwives take are very basic, and almost all related to birth, well woman visits, and newborns. Again, it is worth noting that when legislators ask midwives if they are practicing medicine, they vehemently claim that they are not in the business of practicing medicine. When their clients ask them questions that should be answered by a doctor, direct entry midwives claim to know what they are talking about and readily accept money for answering their questions.

Luckily I was informed enough to know that the flu shot is a good idea for a pregnant woman. What is more troubling to me is the fact that there is not any requirement for midwives, who work with a vulnerable population (newborns and pregnant women), are not required to be vaccinated against possibly fatal diseases. This is yet another gap in the Direct Entry Midwifery Act that should be bridged by new legislation.

Anti-vaccination midwives are totally at odds with the Utah Health Department’s vaccination initiative. Rates of vaccination are low in some parts of utah, and outbreaks of disease like measles and pertussis are increasing. This initiative is important and will save lives, but Utah midwives are purposely undermining this cause because of their own mistaken beliefs about vaccines. I do not think most parents who hire midwives know that they are not qualified to make a judgment for or against vaccination when they consult them. I certainly didn’t! I would not have asked if I did not think my midwife was knowledgeable about the process. This mom almost didn’t vaccinate because of the word of her midwife, so I was not the first or last person to make the mistake of asking the midwife about vaccines.

I found that the president of the Midwives College of Utah, Kristi Ridd-Young, discouraged the cancer-preventing Gardisil vaccine on her facebook page:

kristi ridd young is against vaccines

“Ughhhh! ank goodness I had a bad feeling about recommending this vaccine.” Someone (correctly) points out how there is a lot of information online about how the information Kristi linked to is not correct. Her response?

kristi ridd young is against vaccines 2

“Thanks Emily and Katy. As always, we should all be aware of all research. Sadly I now know two people personally who have experienced serious repercussions from the vaccine with no information prior to the vaccination that there was such a possibility.”

So her knowing some people with problems that she believes are caused by vaccines is enough reason for her to feel uncomfortable recommending it to people. That type of thinking privileges anecdotes over data, an obvious mistake when discussing matters of public health. Also, the nonsense about ‘no information that such a thing were possible” could be false as well. I have gotten vaccinated more than most people- I had my childhood vaccines twice because I could not obtain records and needed them to work in the medical field. The shot was cheaper than a blood test so I got everything again. I get a flu shot every year. When swine flu vaccine became available, I was the first one in line at the health department to get vaccinated. I have had gardisil and hepatitis b vaccines (three shots each). Every time I was either automatically given the CDC information sheet on vaccines or I was offered it. It is a requirement for informed consent. I am not saying that people behave perfectly or that the sheet is never forgotten, but it just seems much more likely to me that regular people likely skip reading detailed information about vaccines when they could be doing something else. It isn’t interesting to most people, and that is fine. This is also a story that cannot be verified because none of us have access to either of these people, the details can never be known.

She isn’t just against gardisil, she is against varicella (chicken pox) vaccines:

kristi ridd young is against vaccines 3

This is also a bit of nonsense that has been thoroughly debunked. There has not been a meaningful connection made between vaccination for chicken pox and shingles. There seems to be some other factor causing an increase in shingles infections that has not yet been identified.

If the president of the midwives college doesn’t know this, how can Utahans reasonably expect students to know? I would imagine that someone willing to publicly discourage vaccination would likely pass this message on to students, who in turn pass it on to their patients. The ripple effect of these damaging beliefs should not be underestimated.

I also found that the Utah Midwives Organization administrator is rabidly anti-vaccine. No one expressed disapproval of her ridiculous beliefs:

UMA admin against vaccines UMA admin against vaccines 3 UMA admin against vaccines 4 UMA admin against vaccines 5

She also seems to subscribe to the deadly belief that garlic is better than antibiotics. This belief has unfortunately cost at least one baby their life. Again, the idea that medicines and medical professionals are totally unnecessary passes without comment by the other midwives in the community

UMA admin garlic is better than antibiotics

People can believe whatever crazy thing they want to- I don’t take issue with that. What I do take issue with is midwives acting outside their expertise and scope of practice in order to spread beliefs. They have a position of authority over the clients that they serve (even if every effort is made to negate that authority, it still exists). People trust midwives to tell them reliable information about their health, and instead they are told rumors and falsehoods. Midwives are unlikely to regulate themselves, so I believe that the Utah senate should step in and do something. I will have a new page up soon about how to contact your representatives and possibly a form letter for concerned citizens.