This week in homebirth deaths

During the past week I learned of three separate homebirth deaths:

1. Coos County Oregon District Attorney has indicted lay midwife Marcene Rebeck for second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of a baby she delivered last year. According to the local newpaper:

The infant who died was a daughter born about a year ago to Bethany Reed of Riverton, who runs Abba Farms with her mother Linda Cummins. The infant died after a long labor and home birth when it was a few days old. The cause of death was listed as septis [sic], an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs.Rebeck, who also owns the Espresso Factory in Bandon, runs a local Montessori-based school and teaches Jazzercise classes, said she has delivered 300 babies during her career, with only one death and no other major incidents.

So now she’s had 2 deaths in only 300 babies for a whopping death rate of 6.6 deaths/1000, more than 15 times higher than the death rate for comparable risk women in the hospital.

2. I learned about this homebirth death in connection with a public petition drive complaining about the King’s County Coronor’s Office:

On April 28, 2012, my son Gianni Bradshaw was a stillbirth during a home delivery. He was accepted into Kings County Hospital where he was autopsied… I spoke with Dr. Lange … at which time she shared autopsy findings. She indicated that Gianni was a healthy infant and that my placenta had an abnormal insertion called sporadic velamentous cord, that may have caused my heavy bleeding/hemmoraging…

A velamentous cord means that the blood vessels of the umblical cord, instead of inserting directly into the placenta, travel across the amniotic membrane. When the membranes rupture, one or more of the blood vessels can be severed and the baby will bleed to death in a matter of minutes. That is apparently what happened here.

3. The homebirth midwives posted about the death of this baby. They apparently believe it is unrelated to birth at a free standing birth center, although that is yet to be determined:

Our community has been touched by tragedy. Jude Declan Zeliff, born at Trillium on July 13th, passed away at home in his mother’s arms [July 15th]. In the face of such tragedy, we cannot help but ask “Why?” and at this time there is no answer to that question. Until moments before his death, Jude gave every indication of health and normalcy…

Possible causes include group B strep sepsis, undiagnosed cardiac defect, and sudden infant death syndrome, among others.

19 Responses to “This week in homebirth deaths”

  1. Westcoast
    July 13, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Follow up on Marcene Rebeck. Coos Bay ultimately only gave her 5 years deferred. Prosecuter was harrassed by her fan club. Obviously, the family who lost the baby had a far worse time of everything than dumb Marcene.

  2. May 20, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    To Bonnie Joyce: Unbelievable that you would say such inaccurate statistics when they are so easy to find. You are just another example of those who put their “religion” of homebirth before the health and safety of term and newborn children. You are unreasonable and a menace to healthcare. How dare you.
    I must admit, as a Maternal Fetal Medicine physician, I do not routinely seek these sites online as I am very busy with my practice and family. However, I am now a true fan of Amy Tuteur, MD (whoever you are). More power to you and this website.

  3. kristine
    May 17, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    30 years of “experience” and she still can’t recognize that the baby needed help.

  4. Bonnie Joyce
    March 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    You are giving false information. Marcene Rebeck of Oregon has had ONE case of infant death out of over 300 sucessful births– you are saying she has had two. Also, I know you are sending your biased info to the DA you is trying to prosecute her. Yes, babies sometimes die after homebirth, but at least in Marcene’s case, her birth record is Better than conventional hospital birth, which is something like one death in 250 births…. Also, what about the Fact that conventional medicine is the 2nd or 3rd (not sure which) cause of all deaths…period.

    • Bombshellrisa
      March 21, 2013 at 4:41 pm #
      The people who write letters to the DA quoting things they have heard on “The Business of Being Born” have gathered to support Marcene. Apparently we can buy a $25 cookbook and contribute to her legal fund.

      • ratiomom
        March 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

        And why oh why do we never see any of these homebirth fans rally support for the families of the real victims: the dead babies. This is the nasty side of the homebirth community: they side with the perpetrator and blame the victim, every time.

        Also, according to the article this Marcene Rebeck is a montessori school teacher with 2 interesting hobbies: teaching jazzercise classes, and presiding over homebirths. I wasn’t aware that midwifery is something you can do in your spare time. She sounds exactly like the kind of trained professional you’d want by your side when two lives hang in the balance. She should find something else to dabble in in her off hours: lay brain surgery, perhaps?

        • An Actual Attorney
          March 21, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

          Following the links, I saw that she tried to stop the video of the birth from being shown at trial. Wonder what’s in there?

        • Bombshellrisa
          March 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

          And check out the pictures of her supporters. The sign “Natural birth is not a crime” really sums up the comprehension skills these types possess.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      March 21, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

      No, as Judith Rooks, CPM MPH testified before the Oregon legislature last week, the hospital death rate for term babies in Oregon is 0.6/1000. WWhy are you defending a woman who allegedly let a baby die? Why aren’t you demanding higher standards for homebirth midwives?

  5. Robert
    February 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    “So now she’s had 2 deaths in only 300 babies for a whopping death rate of 6.6 deaths/1000, more than 15 times higher than the death rate for comparable risk women in the hospital.”

    The quoted statistic is not relevant and, perhaps, intentionally misleading. The more appropriate data would compare Rebeck’s alleged “death rate” with that of midwives in general, not women in the hospital.

    As noted in other comments, it is just as likely (if not more likely) that a higher “death rate” — whether for Rebeck or midwives in general — is simply caused by some parents unfortunate choice to have their babies outside of hospitals, away from potential emergency care. If true, why blame the midwife and not the parents? Or simply have the Oregon Legislature make midwifery illegal?

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      February 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Why blame the midwife? Because she represents herself as a midwife when she is just a lay person pretending to be a midwife, because she has no idea how to treat obstetric emergencies but tells patients that she does, and because she does not obtain informed consent since she is not honest about the risks.


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