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.


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 Midwive’s Association statement on the Vickie Sorensen trial

Here is the Utah Midwives Associations official statement:

We, the Utah Midwives Organization, are aware of the reported charges against Vickie Sorensen, a midwife in Cedar City, UT. The charges are very serious. We are always concerned when there has been loss of life or potential misconduct of a midwife. 

Midwifery care is meant for normal pregnancies proceeding in a normal manner, and there are definitely times when pregnancy is outside the scope of midwifery practice. We cannot comment on this case specifically as it must work its way through the legal process. 

We offer our condolences to the family who has suffered the loss of their child.

This statement reminds me a lot of when MANA’s death rate came out. They said that midwifery care is for low risk pregnancies (as to excuse the astronomical rates of death for twins, vbac, and breech births), but did not make any practice recommendations. The Utah Midwives Association has done the same thing- they have said midwifery care is only appropriate for certain pregnancies, but does not have plans to actually change anything legislatively to ensure that midwifery care is only dispensed to women with low risk pregnancies. 
It also reminds me of the Valerie El Halta fiasco. When that happened Utah midwives also acted as though this was some kind of isolated incident or a deviation from the normal, but I happen to know that two of the midwifery schools in Utah teach breech, vbac, and twin births to students. I know that the trade magazine for home birth midwifery calls all these conditions “a variation of normal”. I’ve read Ina May Gaskin books that say the exact same thing. 
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, and unless UMA lobbies for common sense policies to ensure the safety of moms and babies I will be forced to assume that they find the legislative situation of utah midwives acceptable. 

The mention of the family is appreciated. I wonder if their condolences extend to plans to make sure no other family ever has to endure such a tragedy again?

midwives don’t mind breaking the law- and Holly Richardson knows that

I was alerted to a NARM article featuring a prominent Utah Midwife (Suzanne Smith, LDEM) around the time the Direct Entry Midwifery Act went through (the article is from 2004, the law went through in 2005). It has some interesting insight into what prominent members of Utah’s midwifery community thinks about the law (in a general sense).

One thing is abundantly clear- home birth midwives will practice regardless of if they are legally allowed to do so. They have no problem with breaking the law, they just hope to make the law less pesky for their businesses:

“I remember the day I first discovered just how illegal I was. My heart sank. I panicked. I was sick, and scared. I went to work on solving the problem through legislation”

She did not consider quitting until her profession was legal, despite having worked as a computer programmer for years before then and having many more opportunities for employment than an unskilled laborer or non-college graduate would. I am also astounded by the sheer stupidity of establishing a midwifery practice before looking into if it was actually legal to operate the business to begin with. It seems like one’s attraction to the profession of non-nurse midwifery might be inversely related to IQ, if this blog is any indication.

Here is another choice quote on why she wanted the Direct Entry Midwifery Act to pass (besides keeping her out of prison):

“For me, the only reason to have regulation is to make it legal to use medications. If I didn’t need that, I would prefer legality without regulation. I’m really happy that under our bill, midwives in our state will be able to choose that.

Read that again- the ONLY reason to have regulation is so she can use medications. The ONLY reason. Federal law prohibits the use of medications by unlicensed medical workers. The regulation in Utah exists for ease of practice for midwives! Not for the safety of mothers or babies or to hold negligent midwives accountable- these are the reasons normal people believe in regulating birth attendants. Midwives think that there should not be any rules those who attend births. Contrast this with the lies Holly Richardson (republican candidate for the state house of representatives in Pleasant Grove) left on my blog- telling me that I don’t understand their bill, and that there are “consequences- including criminal” for midwives acting outside their scope. 

Don’t be mistaken either- Holly Richardson was directly involved with Suzanne Smith and the push to pass a bill that does not hold midwives accountable, even when they are negligent. Here is a quote about it in the article:

“My partner Holly Richard is a gift and a joy. Without midwifery, we’d never even have met.”

Are they still partners now that this deadly bill has cost a baby their life? Its hard to say. No one in the midwifery community thinks that the law needs to change- or at least no one has stepped forward yet to say that they believe the state of midwifery in Utah is dangerous.

Does this also mean Holly Richardson illegally practiced as a midwife, since this article was before midwifery was made legal in 2005? According to this article, yes (since KSL lists her as a midwife “of 14 years” as of 2012). She got her bachelors degree in midwifery before the practice act was introduced. She also trained other midwives at the Midwives College of Utah before the profession was legal, so at a minimum she assisted other women in illegally practicing as midwives. Why is this woman qualified to determine legislation when she has a demonstrated, repeated disrespect for the law in the first place? 


Tell Holly Richardson you think Utahan babies and mothers deserve better. They deserve a skilled birth attendant that will be accountable if they make a mistake. Tell her you don’t think its right to let unlicensed midwives practice dangerously with the approval of the state.