Thursday, February 28, 2013

Open Formal Complaints for Two MI Midwives

Many of our blog readers have followed our personal story, and have periodically asked for updates.  For those who are new here, you can learn more about Magnus's birth here, and subsequent ripple effects here.   There were many important facts that surfaced in the months after Magnus's death, that helped us see that his birth, and death were preventable.  We knew things were very wrong, and we knew that we had to stand up for our family, for our son's right to be alive.  

This began a journey toward seeking accountability.  With no clear resource, or way forward we did four things:

a) Filed a civil lawsuit with a medical malpractice attorney
b) Filed an allegation with the State of MI (for the two licensed nurse midwives involved)
c) Reported our case to the police, asking for criminal ivestigation
d) Filed an allegation with the North American Registry of Midwives (for the unlicensed 
    CPM involved)   

I'd like to take a moment to update our readers on how things are going, and most importantly to share with the public that the State has officially filed an "Administrative Complaint".  I'll explain what that means momentarily.  

Civil Case
Our civil lawsuit is continuing for only one of the three midwives involved.  All of the midwives filed bankruptcy to avoid civil accountability, as did the "business" known as The Greenhouse Birth Center.  Apparently this is common strategy among midwives, as it puts and "automatic stay" on the civil case, AND the civil case gets dropped as a result of bankruptcy...if the family pursuing accountability doesn't pay thousands of dollars to fight against it in bankruptcy court.  We had to decide where to put our money and time, and could "object" formally to only one of three filings because it is so expensive.  Hence, one midwife of the three will still have to deal with us in civil proceedings.  

We're grateful that we were able to find a civil lawyer to represent us from the start.  That is not the case for many families I know.  When midwives don't carry malpractice insurance, many lawyers won't touch a case because they will never be paid for the countless hours they spend on that case.  And, as you can see, many families cannot afford to object to the games midwives play to avoid accountability. 

Criminal Investigation
Many of you know, the police investigation was turned over to the county prosecutor, who told us there are no laws in MI for midwives, meaning they can't charge for something that doesn't exist.  They also don't take cases they don't think they can win, even if they believe a crime has been committed.  The analogy given was that if drunk driving weren't illegal, then they couldn't prosecute if there weren't laws against it.  For us, that turned out to be a dead end, at least for now.  

As soon as a civil lawsuit is filed, NARM then stops the process of reviewing allegations of negligence.  Why?  Who knows?  Apparently they look to someone else, namely the court to hold their "professionals" accountable.  So again, this went nowhere

The State of Michigan
The State has conducted an investigation, and turned our case over to the Attorney General's office for review.  After they completed their review, they determined that the Public Health Code was indeed violated, and there by filed an "Administrative Complaint".  Evidence of this decision can be found by anyone who visits, and verifies a license for Clarice Winkler or Shelie Ross.  (Links below)

Clarice Winkler, CNM
Shelie Ross, CNM 

(Note: The only reason you can verify a license for these two midwives is b/c they are CNMs, licensed by the state of MI.  There is NO database to check a CPMs history of discipline or outcomes.)   

(Another Note: The tricky part is that several licenses are listed for each midwife.  Clarice Winkler's complaint and former probation, are listed under her "nursing license", NOT her midwife license.  Shelie Ross's complaint is listed under her midwife license.)    

Where things go from here is anyone's guess.  A conference will be held to see if the Attorney General and the midwives can agree upon appropriate sanctions, that potential sanctions have to be approved by the Board of Nursing.  If they cannot agree, then we go to a state hearing, for sanctions to again be determined...and again, proposed sanctions have to be approved by the Board of Nursing.  This is why a balanced board of oversight is so critically important.  At this point, we're just grateful that the state is carefully looking at this situation, and trying to hold at least some of the people involved, accountable for their actions.

The frustrating piece is that each and every one of these midwives is STILL delivering babies, nearly two years after Magnus's death.  Other babies have died.  Other babies have been injured in that time, yet they still continue to practice without consequence.  It has taken nearly two years for the government to post that there is a complaint in process, and I wonder how many mothers even know where to find that information before they hire these midwives.   

And furthermore, even if the state decided tomorrow to revoke their licenses...they can STILL deliver babies in MI.  How?  Well, you see, there are no laws that say you have to be a licensed midwife in MI.  Hell, there are no laws that even define what a midwife is in MI.   

So, with a professional organization (NARM) that doesn't hold its member accountable, a civil system that rarely works for these cases, and a state that has no laws, accountability is all but extinct.  MI is a perfect hide out for any midwife who wants to fly under the radar.  It's a scary place for OOH birth, and what gets me the most is that it doesn't have to be that way.  We could have a much, much safer set of guidlines and practices that would offer families OOH birth options, with safety at the forefront.  We could have measures of accountability, and standards for education.  Instead MI is a hotbed for anyone who wants to call herself "midwife" and market her "services" to an unsuspecting public. 

Why MI families aren't demanding better options and higher standards for OOH birth?  That I can't answer.  Perhaps it is because it is so difficult to actually know what is going on behind the scenes.  Perhaps it is too difficult for those who had good outcomes in OOH birth to consider the risks they took/escaped, or to even fathom the idea that things aren't quite right until you personally experience the "other side".   There is no real, or honest transparency in OOH birth.  There is however, a lot of marketing, play on fear, and outright indoctrination going on.   Michigan families deserve better options.  


  1. "The frustrating piece is that each and every one of these midwives is STILL delivering babies, nearly two years after Magnus's death. Other babies have died. Other babies have been injured in that time, yet they still continue to practice without consequence."

    Do you mean that other babies have died and been injured as a result of care provided by Winkler, Ross, and/or the CPM involved in Magnus' birth? Or do you mean that other babies have died and been injured as a result of the care provided by other midwives in MI during the two years since Magnus' death? You should probably clarify and you should also provide the numbers of deaths/injuries even if you don't provide the details themselves (I understand why you wouldn't want to publish names of babies or their families). Everyone involved in this issue should be held to the same standards regarding fact-based claims they use to support their position. In my opinion, it's unacceptable for anyone involved in this issue (midwives, citizens, or governmental agents) to be vague or unclear (intentionally or unintentionally) regarding facts/data.

    1. Thank you for your comment, and happy to clarify. When I say other babies have died and others were injured, I meant specifically with these midwives. It's difficult to give numbers since they don't have to report data to anyone. The LSJ estimated 5 deaths, some before, and one after ours. Injuries are only word of mouth. I know of once since our son's death. I can't release names or estimated dates out of respect for the other families involved. I do know of 4 families that contacted us, who were under the care of the same midwives, and had very near misses since our son's death as well. I hope this helps to answer your question. I absolutely agree with it being unacceptable for anyone to be vague on this topic.

    2. I should also clarify that there have also been other deaths and injuries since our son's death in 2011 with other midwives in MI too. Again, all word of mouth when no data is collected. Our group knows of 4 deaths, and two injuries. We only know what gets voluntarily shared with us or on the internet. Unfortunately, this is a very small snapshot of our state as a whole, and the broader scope of the issue.

  2. The below statement is from the LARA website. CNMs do need to be licensed in Michigan.
    Also, data is reported. Certains events require mandatory reporting, but that doesn't mean they need to report to you.
    I can understand how your grief can cloud your judgment. I wouldn't want to trade places with you for anything as I imagine losing a child is the worst possible thing that could happen to a person. I hope you are able to find healing as you continue your journey.

    A license for a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Midwife Specialty Certification is required with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Health Care Services, Board of Nursing; 517-335-0918.

    Further Information:

    Certification is available through the American College of Nurse-Midwives, 818 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20006; 202-728-9860.

    Revised: September 2013

    1. Jennifer, I think you have either misunderstood something I wrote or didn't read very carefully. Of course you have to have a license to be a "CNM". You do NOT have to have a license to be a practicing "midwife" in MI. Case and point, Clarice Winkler who the state investigated over our son's death. They issued sanctions, she surrendered her CNM license, and she's still delivering babies in our state. In fact, she's offering breech home birth. Terrific system of accountability eh? If she had gone with the sanctions the board of Nursing suggested she would have had probation, but then had to follow their rules and limitations thereafter. It was much easier (and less expensive) to just surrender her license altogether because it doesn't limit her practice in a

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