Baby’s brain injury casts spotlight on midwifery

Baby’s brain injury casts spotlight on midwifery

The debate over whether home births are safe could ignite in Maryland due to a birth injury that occurred after a midwife attempted to deliver a baby boy.

A couple had hired the midwife to deliver their son at their home in March 2010. During the delivery, however, something went terribly wrong, forcing an ambulance to transport the mother to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where the boy was born brain damaged. The family sued the hospital and won a $55 million judgment. The hospital said it will appeal the award, arguing the delivery would have gone better had it started at the hospital.

The jury never heard testimony about the midwife’s attempt to deliver the baby. Her license was suspended by the Maryland Board of Nursing for what she allegedly did during the delivery and four other at-home deliveries over a three-year span. A baby died in one case, according to the nursing board.

Of the 220 certified midwives in the state, the woman was one of few who will deliver babies at residences. The others perform deliveries in hospitals, according to statistics provided by the president of Maryland Families for Safe Birth.

Supporters of midwifery said Maryland has some of the toughest laws in the U.S. regarding home births. In this case, the family did not sue the midwife, with the parents’ lawyers saying that the midwife’s potential negligence was not relevant to their case against the hospital.

The baby’s brain failed to receive oxygen as the mother waited at the hospital for a cesarean section procedure. The baby suffers from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which causes severe and permanent brain damage.

The midwife’s fate will be determined following private hearings, at which time the nursing board could reinstate or terminate her license. Even after a decision is made, the discussion in Maryland is likely to go on about how to make home births as safe as possible.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, Meredith Cohn, July 14, 2012

Greenberg Law Offices