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.

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.

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. 

It was just a matter of time

Previously on this blog, I’ve made a point of warning Utah’s midwifery community that another preventable home birth death was inevitable, and that we should push for legislation to protect moms and babies before its too late.

I’ve been proven correct, unfortunately. Vicki Sorensen has been charged in relation to a death caused by negligence in a home birth, and like other midwives before her she falsified records and refused to transport a mother (according to police documents, anyway). This practice is so common in home birth deaths that I find it very plausible, though to people who do not follow home birth deaths or issues it may seem outlandish.

The salt lake tribune reports that there have been more deaths under Sorensen’s care.

Midwives in the state are likely to claim that this is just a ‘rogue’ midwife, like they did when Valerie El Halta killed a baby in a home birth in our state, but make no mistake; Vicki Sorensen is a pillar of the Utah Midwifery community, and the right of people like her to practice midwifery any way they choose to is exactly what the Utah Midwive’s Organization wants. If midwives did not support this kind of behavior they would not be throwing a fundraiser for her, now would they?

I will be continuing my coverage of this death tomorrow. I send my condolences to the family that lost their children and hope that something positive can come from this death. Click the ‘action guide’ sidebar if you want to help to pass laws to prevent another tragedy in the future.

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.

Holly Richardson responds

Holly Richardson left some comments on my last piece about her. Lets get the easy stuff out of the way, by disproving this bit that Holly said:

And ps: I have not hosted a “midwifery meeting” in almost 10 years. Your “facts” are, in fact, wrong.

holly gave presentationwhoops July 2013 was last year, not ten years ago.  I have my own copy of the audio from the meeting from before UMO made their page private, I will upload it soon. Now that thats out of the way, we can move onto the comments with some meat to them:

While I’m flattered you want to highlight my campaign, your anti-midwife agenda will get you nowhere in this state.

I am not anti-midwife, I am anti-unaccountable medical practitioners. I am sure that the majority of people in utah are.

And really, you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Utah law, the process we went through, or the mood on the Hill.

Holly does not cite the portion of the law that would prove me wrong or tell me exactly where I made an error, I am very interested in knowing where I made a mistake. I will correct it if it is demonstrated to me.

Sadly, you’re not even brave enough to use your real name to attack political candidates.

I don’t use my real name because I blog about my abuse history, and it is humiliating to me to have anyone googling my name find out that it happened to me. Newspapers use this same standard in their reporting, and it is reasonable.

 I am proud of my work on behalf of midwives in this state. We have a long history of safe midwifery care.

I linked to several stories of extremely dangerous breech, vbac, and twin births being presided over by utah midwives. Holly is already aware of how unsafe Valerie El Halta’s practices were, because they killed someone who did not have to die.

Dr Amy Tueter has a saying about home birth babies that die- they are buried twice. Once in the ground, and again by midwives and their advocates who don’t want the public to know about them. This is a prime example of being buried twice, pretending that there is a long history of ‘safe midwifery care’ when there was at least one high profile case of extreme negligence in the past two years. I am joining the skeptical OB in using the #notburiedtwice hashtag on twitter to make sure that these babies did not die in vain.

For those who practice outside their scope, there already are safeguards in place.

Oh really? Where were those safegaurds when I was pregnant, and my midwife lied to me about her qualifications and practices? Because I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, for over a year to get something done about the midwife I had that acted outside of her scope and abused me during my labor. If there is some resource I am missing I am very interested in hearing about it, but so far I’ve tried the owner of the birth center where the midwife worked (who blamed me for what happened), DOPL (can’t do anything about unlicensed people), the police (do not know what to charge someone with who pretends to be licensed but isn’t, do not have enough evidence to go to the DA with my other claims), Utah Midwives Organization (who I had to pester to get a response and ultimately rallied behind the midwife that abused me),  and the Midwives College of Utah (who are putting a note in that birth center’s file for later- no idea what that actually accomplishes). Nothing was done. Valerie El Halta made the ultimate mistake, one that killed someone, and she got probation and a ban from attending other births in the state. She will probably just move again to another state where midwives can get away with being unlicensed.

We are a right-to-work state and we are predominately Republican, which means we believe in limited government and in people’s right to make decisions for themselves and their families – and those include healthcare decisions.

I am pretty sure that republicans also believe that little babies should not be killed because of their parents choices, right? Or are republicans pro-choice now? Because what I see is a lot of babies being sacrificed to letting parents decide to birth out of hospital, and in fact the states with the most restrictions on home birth are predominantly republican.

Although you refuse to use your real name, I am quite certain that you were never a part of the discussions to legalize midwifery in Utah, nor have you ever been involved in lobbying. It’s evident that it is difficult for you to read and understand the Utah code but I assure you, there are consequences for those midwives who practice outside their scope.

Once again, the consequences are not named and law isn’t cited, and I have first hand experience in trying to get something done about this and there isn’t any real consequence for midwives. There just isn’t. I am eager to learn of any new avenue for getting my situation resolved.

Believe it or not, midwifery is not my primary interest in running for office. It’s education and the economy.

It should be your primary interest because the state of midwifery in Utah is appalling and you had a hand in it. Take some responsibility and pledge to fix the law. I’m not going to stop my exposure of the deplorable practices of utah midwives in response to negligence.

You all are just one more tragedy away from this whole thing blowing up again. I can wait, but I wish I didn’t have to, I wish that someone with the power to change things before they get out of hand would do so.