Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear Michigan Legislators

Dear Michigan Legislators,

I have an important story to tell about a tragedy that could have been prevented had Michigan laws been up to date.  You have the power to make them current and protect  families from experiencing the same unnecessary harm. 

My baby died three years ago as a result of severe trauma during out-of-hospital birth at a freestanding birth center.  Two of the midwives attending his birth were licensed.  One was not.  His birth should have been considered high risk.  Proper assessments should have been taken.  We should have been referred to a physician.  None of those things happened.  Instead we were reassured by our midwives that delivering at the freestanding birth center would be safe and ideal.  Instead he was entrapped for over 7 minutes. 

After a very traumatic birth and nearly two weeks in the RNICU, our baby passed away.  We sought accountability at the state, criminal, and civil levels only to be told that there were no laws to which these people could be held accountable.  The Attorney General issued sanctions for the two licensed midwives...who still continue to practice today, one without her license, because in MI you don't need to have a license to be a midwife.  The unlicensed midwife walked away without any consequence because the state can't do much about unlicensed care givers who are considered "a-legal".  Civil court found one midwife to be grossly negligent, issuing a 5 Million dollar judgment.   All of them filed bankruptcy to discharge the civil lawsuit.  The judgment itself didn't matter much more than the paper it was written on though, because they didn't carry malpractice insurance, nor are they required to do so.  The worst part?  We found that we were not alone, that many other babies had been injured or died in the care of the same midwives both before and after our son.  How is it they are still allowed to practice?   

Michigan is one of only a few states to have no laws addressing midwifery outside hospitals.  It's not a subject to be taken lightly.  With a shortage crisis in maternity care, and misleading cultural movements, more and more women are seeking alternative care in our state.  For 30 years North Carolina has required midwives to have an AMCB certification, an education, and a physician back up.  30 Years!  Michigan?  No laws or standards whatsoever.  None.  Not even today.   

Legislators, you have a responsibility to protect the people of Michigan.  Whether Republican or Democrat, you have ethical obligations to do the right thing.  This is not a subject that can be ignored.  It's only a matter of time before a family sues the State for not protecting the people.  Several dangerous bills on the subject of licensing for midwives have been proposed in recent years.  Unfortunately, these bills would do more to protect midwives than the families they serve, and would indeed do nothing to improve safety.  We need you to take action and draft responsible legislation that would improve safety for out-of-hospital birth. 

Primary Areas of Concern:
  • Anyone can call herself a "midwife" in the state of Michigan, regardless of her educational background, experience, or track record.  
  • Anyone can open  "birth center" in the state of MI.  
  • No malpractice insurance is required of a midwife who practices outside a hospital, or a birth center not affiliated with a hospital. 
  • You don't need a license to be a midwife or run a birth center.  
  • Midwives with both criminal and civil history are continuing to deliver babies due to lacking laws in Michigan.  In fact, they purposefully come to Michigan because they can get away with it here.  
  • Home birth has increased 20% during the past 10 years, and 116% in Kent County alone, according to an article from Grand Rapids last month.  Home birth has reached a 40 year high in our state, yet we have no laws governing the practice of those delivering babies outside hospital walls. 

How to Improve Safety: 

Draft responsible, bi-partisan legislation to address the safety issues with out-of-hospital birth.  Licensing midwives alone will not improve safety. 

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