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.

No Remorse

Vickie Sorensen, a midwife charged with negligently killing a baby, is going to trial.

I have seen people die when I worked in health care. I saw the deep sadness that surrounded those cases, as well as the institutional review systems in place that were meant to analyze what could be done differently next time. Home birth midwifery seems to lack both of those things. Providers who are under review after a death rarely feel persecuted because they know the gravity of the situation and would rather be held responsible. This is what we see from midwives, time after time:

vickie sorensen is going to a jury trialPeople familiar with the reported facts of the case would find it to be totally preposterous to dismiss these charges. Vickie instead feels entitled to a dismissal on the grounds of “common sense”.

None of this has stopped Vickie from delivering babies, by the way. That is because there is nothing in place to stop anyone from delivering babies in the state, even the serially negligent or incompetent. All they have to do is brand themselves a midwife, and legally they are one. It seems like if a midwife is being charged with reckless endangerment and manslaughter in relation to her practice, she should be monitored or sanctioned somehow until the justice system has determined innocence or guilt. This reminds me very much of the Josh Powell case, there was nothing in place to prevent him from visiting his children despite being the prime suspect in the murder of their mother. That lack of legislation cost lives, just like the lack of legislation of midwives in Utah has cost lives. No one involved with the Direct Entry Midwifery Practice Act is willing to be accountable for the lives lost. Not only do they not feel responsible, they don’t even feel sorry.

Reasons I believe the Vickie Sorensen Allegations

I’ve seen a lot of attempts to whitewash the tragic death of a newborn during a birth that Vickie Sorensen attended at her free-standing birth center in Utah. The child was a twin that was born premature, two risk factors that should have excluded the patient from an out of hospital birth. The arguments the pro-vickie, pro-home birth camp put forward are pretty pathetic. It is the same garbage I hear every time a midwife is arrested. The first response is that no one is allowed to have an opinion on the validity of the charges until the verdict comes through (interestingly enough, every single case I’ve followed ended in a conviction).

Courts rightly presume innocence until guilt is proven, but regular people are under no such obligation when forming their opinions.

The first argument is “we don’t have all the facts yet”! But we do have the fact that the attorney general felt that there was enough evidence to base a manslaughter charge on. We have the fact that the Salt Lake Tribune felt comfortable enough with the findings of police and interviewing witnesses to run the story.

Another important thing to remember is that if ANY of these allegations are true then it was an appalling way to behave. I have a hard time believing that *none* of the allegations are true, and they do not all need to be true for this incident to serve as a wake up call to Utahans and our legislators.

There are other factors that lead me to believe that these charges are based on fact.

The sheer number of witnesses which would have to conspire against Vickie Sorensen (for no known reason) is pretty astronomical. I could accept one or perhaps maybe two witnesses testifying for some known reason against Vickie, but if you read the allegations it becomes clear that the minimum number of witnesses far exceeds reasonable doubt:

baby’s mother

baby’s father

baby’s grandmother

first EMT

second EMT

at least one doctor

at least one nurse

 

That is, at a minimum, seven people who witnessed the case at hand. I would imagine that if the testimonies were mixed there would be no case- the district attorney generally tries to avoid wasting time on cases that are not able to be prosecuted successfully. I find it much more likely that the accounts of 7 (or more) people corroborate the manslaughter charges.

Even if there was some attempt to persecute Vickie Sorensen for a reason not apparent at this time, there is the problem of the medical records. All the workers involved would have to falsify their records while the events were taking place or shortly after. I find this highly unlikely.

The other possibility I have been able to come up with is that police officers would have to tamper with the evidence, risking their career (again for no known reason). Since most of the evidence would probably be witness accounts and medical records it would be pretty difficult to fake, and would be found out rather quickly at trial. I find it unlikely.

The other major reason I find the allegations plausible is that this is exactly the same as every other home birth disaster. Anyone who follows them knows there is a theme. There are three phases to many home birth disasters:

First, the midwife makes a mistake.

Second, it becomes apparent that she doesn’t know what she is doing and real medical professionals are called.

Third, the midwife lies about her involvement in the delivery, or opts to lie to the hospital about her mistake.

Here is a collection of stories that fit the pattern:

Magnuss’s death (midwives told the mother breech birth was safe, the baby got stuck and brain damaged from oxygen deprivation, the midwife told EMTs they weren’t aware it was a breech birth until the delivery)

Shepphard’s injury (midwives told mother it was normal to labor for days, kept finding reasons not to show up to help the mother, baby was injured by days and days of labor and had to have extensive hospital stay to recover, midwives denied that any of this happened and threatened a lawsuit if the mother told anyone what happened)

A mother’s injuries (midwives told her to push and that she was crowning, when she was not fully dialated and had a blood clot coming out due to pelvic organ prolapse, midwife refused to give hospital any information about the birth, mother has injuries to her pelvic organs that are only fixable by surgery, baby was in distress but saved by c-section)

Sam’s death and mothers near death (midwife ignored signs of placental abruption, transported too late, baby had severe oxygen deprivation injuries and mother almost died from post partum bleeding. Midwife lied about her involvement to the board and blamed the physicians for her mistake. Sam died at 3 years old due to his brain injury.)

Mary Beth’s death (midwife didn’t show up for the birth on time, so EMTs were called. the midwife said everything was fine even though there were signs of respiratory distress. The baby died later that day, and the midwife falsified medical records to avoid arrest, as well as trying to convince Mary Beth’s mother that the death was not preventable)

Newborn baby birth injured, mother gets sepsis (breech baby had a brain bleed, mother had a fever after home birth delivery. Midwife told her not to go to the hospital, but things kept getting worse. The midwife asked the mother to sign a form that said the midwife did not attend the birth and begged her not to tell because she was concerned about her own license)

Aquila’s death (another placental abruption, mother begging for transfer that was denied, midwife put that patient refused transport on medical documents to try and avoid consequences, baby dies)

Lia’s death (midwife said twin birth after cesarean is safe, one twin is born not breathing and isn’t resuscitated, midwife denies that the baby could have been saved in hospital)

Gavin Michael’s death (a midwife lied to their patient about the safety of going past 43 weeks or pregnancy with a measurement of zero amniotic fluid, the baby died in utero from slow suffocation, the midwife lied about attending the birth in public and then in private blames the mother because they would have “hated” her if she had decided to be harsh about the emergency)

It is worth noting that in the last story, the midwife decided to ask other midwives what to do publicly on facebook instead of admitting that she really had no clue what she was doing. A parade of other clueless midwives, including Jan Tritten (editor of Midwifery Today, the trade magazine for direct entry midwives) all suggested that they either wait longer or take worthless remedies like stevia. None of them have taken any responsibility in the death despite being questioned about it relentlessly via facebook and email.

I decided to take 10 minutes to find these stories, there are many more out there. There are unknown stories, where the patient believed the midwive’s lies and decided not to seek disciplinary action as a result. This is normal for midwives.

As I have pointed out before, midwives have a handy guide to avoiding responsibility for deaths (called From Calling to Courtroom) which advocates Lying to hospitals, to patients, to police. I have also pointed out that the Utah Midwive’s Associations peer review guidelines encourage lying to conceal illegal behavior.

It is so predictable, it would be boring if it weren’t so tragic. The point of this is not to say that you can always believe a midwife is guitly, it is to demonstrate that this is by any standard a completely ordinary event. Ordinary events do not require extraordinary evidence in order to be believed by regular people. If I am wrong I will make as many retractions as needed, but I’m not holding my breath.

 

 

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. 

Utah midwives make a mockery of peer review

Peer review is a process that exists in many disciplines, usually ones with high stakes decision making like medicine or science. The purpose of peer review is to verify the truth, and sometimes to recommend a disciplinary action (if the peer review arose out of an incident that ended poorly).  Peer review can be very scary for those who are going through it, since the idea is to be critical of a person’s actions or ideas. No matter how scary peer review is for the person being reviewed, it is absolutely essential to everyone else that it be done. Drugs cannot be put on the market because the researcher’s feelings might be hurt if someone points out a flaw in their study of its safety. Doctors cannot be allowed to keep practicing in a negligent manner because the peer review board thinks doctors should stick together. Everyone recognizes that patients and the public in general are the reason for peer review.

 

…everyone except direct entry midwives of course.

 

I found the utah midwive’s association’s peer review protocols, and they are an absolute joke. You aren’t allowed to question why a midwife performed a certain action. You will be asked to leave if you ask why someone chose the course of action that they did- this means even if someone died or was disabled because of the action, other midwives aren’t allowed to be critical of it.  You are only allowed to ask if they considered a different course of action. You aren’t allowed to hurt another midwife’s feelings, that seems to be the main concern throughout the document. They do peer review for “educational” reasons, although I don’t know how much education can be gleaned from a discussion where critical thought (which generally involves asking hard questions) is not allowed.

Interestingly enough, you also aren’t allowed to be honest about your case if it involved anything illegal. Here is what the practice guidelines say:

  • Please do not present cases in which there has been or may have been illegal conduct, such as an unlicensed midwife administering medications or a licensed midwife acting outside her scope (delivering twins, for example). We want the review to be a safe place where we can learn from each other. Announcing that you have engaged in illegal or questionably legal activities as a midwife puts you and each participant in an emotionally, ethically and legally perilous situation. Just don’t do it!

 

How are the midwives who are doing illegal things supposed to learn about the dangers of it if they aren’t allowed to discuss it in peer review? The utah midwive’s organizaton has lobbied to make it so that unlicensed midwives can take on any client they feel comfortable with, regardless of the risk level involved, and now they refuse to even let these women learn the error of their ways through a peer review instead of by personally maiming or killing someone. Its deplorable. It is worth noting that the majority of midwives in utah do not decide to become licensed, likely so they can practice outside the state’s guidelines. The Midwive’s College of Utah and Community School of Midwifery both teach skills for homebirths that fall outside the license midwife’s standard of practice (such as twins and breech births at home). These practices are encouraged in the name of “trusting birth”, and bragging rights of course. I’m sure its wonderful to be the breech expert in town like Melody Pendleton claims to be.

 

You can contrast their joke of a peer review process with an actual hospital peer review protocol. 

When the findings of the assessment process are relevant to an individual’s performance, the medical
staff is responsible for determining their use in peer review and/or the periodic evaluations of a
licensed independent practitioner’s competence, or in connection with any corrective action, in
accordance with the procedures and standards set forth in the Medical Staff Bylaws, Credentialing
Procedures Manual and Corrective Action and Fair Hearing Plan.

….

Peer review is the review of the clinical activities of members of the Medical Staff by other qualified
practitioners with comparable training and experience who can render an unbiased opinion on the quality of
care

 

Peer review is supposed to be about improving the care provided. Advising participants to lie about their activities or to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings is just another piece of evidence that direct entry midwives aren’t professionals, they just pretend to be to deceive more Utah families into hiring them.

If your baby dies or is injured in a home birth, if your midwife fails to show up or lies to you about the safety of your pregnancy, if your midwife does ANYTHING she isn’t supposed to, these are the people you are supposed to be able to turn to. But they will do nothing to help you, they turn their backs on anyone who does not aid them in the goal of hiding the deaths and injuries caused by home birth midwives in our state.