A veritable rogues gallery at the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference

HRiC midwives panel small

I wrote Thursday that nothing demonstrates contempt for babies, mothers and truth like the picture of Dr. Robert Biter speaking at the appallingly misnamed Human Rights in Childbirth Conference. But the picture above is a close second.

The picture appeared on Twitter with the caption “persecuted midwives panel.” Imagine, these women are being “persecuted” just because a bunch of babies died. How important could that be, right? I’ve reviewed everything I could get my hands on from the Conference including the web announcement of the conference, blog posts and tweets, and I couldn’t find a single mention of the dead babies.

Marcene Rebeck, Sister Morningstar (Sandra Mountjoy, 5th from the left), Jessica Weed were charged in connection with homebirth deaths.

Diane Goslin, and Ireena Keeslar were arrested and charged with practicing without a license.

As what is the “persecution”? They’re being held accountable for their actions and if there is one thing that homebirth midwives are absolutely, positively sure about, it is they should never be held accountable regardless of which laws they break and regardless of the carnage that results.

Which gets back to the question I asked a few months ago. Human rights in childbirth: does the baby have any?

The baby? You remember the baby, the other individual whose life is at stake during the process of birth? What about the baby?

I’m not talking about legal rights. Children have virtually no legal rights before birth. I’m talking about moral rights. When a mother makes the decision to take a pregnancy to term, does the baby have a moral right to receive appropriate and life-saving medical care? …

Simply put, an unborn term baby has a moral right to receive potentially life-saving medical care, and that moral right is not trumped by something as trivial as the mother’s desire for a specific birth “experience.” This is analogous to a right of a child already born to receive life-saving medical care. That is a legal as well as a moral right. The parents’ desire to avoid medical care, to substitute prayer, or to simply ignore the child’s distress pales into insignificance next to the child’s legal right to life-saving care.

And the birth junkie midwife’s “right” to entertain herself by attending births and getting paid for it doesn’t even exist.

The Conference was not about human rights in childbirth. It was about birth junkies’ “rights” to pretend to be midwives, to break the law and to preside over preventable homebirth deaths. The organizers may have picked a title for the conference that is a successful public relations gambit, but this picture is a public relations disaster and these women are apparently so clueless that they don’t even realize it.

  • Birthlover

    I know these midwives personally, and i can attest to the fact that they have delivered thousands of babies. You should be ashamed for taking away the Mother and Family’s right to pursue happiness by having a home birth.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Pursue happiness? How happy are the parents of the dead babies?

    • No one is taking away that right. Anyone can give birth at home and have whomever they please to be with them. What is not right is for midwives to claim to be professionals, claim to be experts, claim to be able to assist in a safe delivery (especially if the mom is high risk), claim to be able to transfer in time, claim that they have never lost another baby, and etc etc… claim that all you have to do is “trust birth” and all will be ok…. they can make any claim they want, really, b/c there is no transparency, no way to check the facts about your home birth midwife…. and then when things end up going very badly, the midwife faces zero consequences, even if her actions were HORRIBLY neglectful. It is NOT RIGHT.

  • Petanque

    There’s someone missing – for me (in Australia) that panel just isn’t complete without the venerable Lisa Barrett.

    • Yes, she’s the high priestess. No one else can claim having a coroner’s inquest into five of the births they attended.

  • Annie

    Well I’ve always wanted to be an elephant keeper at the zoo. By not allowing me to climb into the habitat and start taking care of elephants, you are infringing upon my human rights.

    What, it doesn’t work that way?

    • Jen

      only if you take my self-paced, self-study course on the care and feeding of elephants. It’s only $4000 to start and then monthly the fee is $400. The course is 28 months long, because that’s how long elephants are pregnant, as long as those arrogant vets aren’t involved. Baby elephants know when to be born. And we sell all the zoo-keeper clothing and equipment you’ll need. Plus the videos on how to use all that stuff, if you ever actually needed to. Mostly, ours is a hands-off philosophy when it comes to elephants. We’ve only had two students killed, EVER, in stampedes. Well, one was suffocated by elephant poo, but that was a different story. And besides, students die in trucking school too!

      • Annie

        That sounds totally comprehensive!

        Going through the thought process of deciding to be an elephant keeper gave me a lot of insight, so I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty much a guru on this sort of thing.

  • Laural

    I’m sure this issue has been raised before, but, pondering the moral and legal rights of unborn term babies makes me wonder why on earth they don’t have any.

    I know that I have seen ‘double’ homicide charges when a pregnant woman is murdered. (on tv- I’m faaar from familiar with actual real law) But, assuming I’m not wrong, how could I be charged and go to jail for harming an unborn as a malicious criminal, but have no culpability as an incompetent care provider? Especially if I have a bona-fide CPM license to provide care?

    Geez, I know no one is advocating that a woman does not have the legal right to stay at home for birth, but, it kind of seems incongruent that I, as a mother, can be negligent for not caring for my child by not seeking appropriate care, or buckling her seatbelt, and be free of any culpability by not seeking appropriate care when the child is being born, probably the most hazardous time of her young years?

    I really don’t know the right answer, but I do think about it and wonder.

    Ack. I am generally a social liberal, and I can see issues with this line of thought; but I beleive liberty and others rights and safety have to all be balanced, don’t they?

    • I don’t exactly get this either. I can see that it is necessary for a mother to have power over life and death up to the point when her baby takes a breath, and then she doesn’t. But other people do not have that power, so I don’t see why there couldn’t be some kind of tightly prescribed law – with teeth – that can’t be used against the mother but could make gung ho midwives a lot more nervous. Provisional status for an about-to-be-born infant? Changing the wording from fetus to infant about 36 weeks, in a way that would allow late abortions when unavoidable? It might result in a bit more curiosity and research about why some infants don’t survive. It is a legal conundrum, and like most laws might result in hard cases, but if it starts from protecting the rights of the mother but also giving some to the baby. They don’t look much like fetues in those heart-breaking pictures.

      • When it’s difficult to prove anything, it would be a helluva law to enforce.

        When was the baby last proven to have a heartbeat? What caused the heart to stop beating? Was it intentional? Neglect?

      • Wishful

        There is no need for an abortion at 36 weeks, the baby is way past viable, they are late pre-term. If continuing the pregnancy is going to harm the mother do a c-section and deliver the baby. That would stop any medical threat to mom and at 36 weeks the baby has good odds of survival.

        • Kerlyssa

          Late term abortions are generally because of deformities of the fetus, so…

          • thankfulmom

            I would hate to see a deformed baby pulled apart piece by piece in a late term abortion or burned to death by a saline abortion just because it is deformed. An induction if necessary or a c/s if time is critical in saving mom’s life would be kinder and the parents would have the opportunity to say a tearful goodbye to their child who deformities were not compatible with life.

          • KumquatWriter

            Not to threadjack, but that isn’t how most late-term abortions are go.

          • Dr Kitty

            Saline abortions haven’t been standard of care for about 20 years.

            Most “late term abortions” are either a simple induction of labour and decision not to provide resuscitation or life sustaining treatment at gestations on the edge of viability. Sometimes women will opt for intracardiac KCL prior to induction, sometimes not.

            Third trimester surgical abortions are very, very rare, and usually chosen for good medical reason after discussion of ALL alternatives, including non surgical termination , continuing the pregnancy or delivering the baby at that gestation and providing life sustaining care.

            At the end of the day it is a deeply personal decision made by a woman and her medical team. It is irrelevant whether it is the same choice you or I would make, if it is the one that is right for her.

          • Wishful

            If the baby has an abnormality that makes it not compatible with life its a non issue isn’t it? I mean the child will be delivered and then will die. What kind of life sustaining treatment are talking here? Is this talking about denying a preemie food and warmth or just heroic measures like ventilator and full NICU gear.

          • Sarah

            Pulled apart or burnt to death??? You have no idea what really happens.

    • T.

      Because sad as it is, giving rights to the unborn take away the right from the born (IE: the woman). This is true.

      However, I agree with Lizzie Dee. The point here is not on the right of feti, it is on people who pretends to provide medical care without being qualified.

      • Laural

        Yes, yes, to you and Lizzie Dee.
        Are we not ‘there’ in some ways, already; what of substance abuse mothers? How are they handled, legally? I remember in the newborn nursery we could test any babies we felt displayed signs of substance abuse/withdrawal, and the mother did not have to consent. If I remember right there were consequences for the mothers when their babies came back positive for anything, which the mothers would have ingested/snorted/injected before the babies were born, obviously.

  • Captain Obvious

    This really doesn’t sound like someone who is proud of their work…”The complaint says Weed asked the mother to write a letter and tell hospital officials she did not help with the delivery.” Way to go Jessica Weed.

  • Dr Kitty

    Look, I trained for six years in medical school, with four months post grad as a junior doctor doing OB/Gyn,another four months in ER and another four months in Paeds. I work in General Practice. Very little makes me worried.

    I’ve gone to a house to assess if a person there needed detained under the mental health act, when I knew there were firearms registered to the property.
    I’ve been the only doctor on site at night in an ER.

    I like women’s health, I do well woman, antenatal, post natal and contraceptive consultations day and daily.

    You know what I don’t do, because I feel I would be totally out of my depth if it went wahoonie shaped? Home birth.

    It makes me very uncomfortable that someone who has only seen 25-50 births would feel confident alone in someone’s house, because, hell, I’ve seen more than that and I don’t.

    • Amazed

      Oh Dr Kitty, don’t you know? All the training you’re bragging of means nothing. NO-THING. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Hear this, you arrogant doc? ‘Cause credentials have nothing to do with abilities. There are tens of thousands of women who just “have it” and each of them is more qualified than you.

      I call bulls*t. If someone is such an accomplished professionalist, I’d think they would have had the respect to their profession and actually undertaken the education that proves that they have achieved some level of accomplished professionalism. Self-advertising and references from satisfied clients are not Holy Writ. Period.

      • Why are home birth advocates such as yourself so rude?

        • PoopDoc

          Me thinks Amazed was using sarcasm.

        • Amazed

          Rude? That I am, I acknowledge this much freely. But a homebirth advocate? This, I do deny. Oh I hate hospitals as much as the next person but there’s no way I’ll accept that home is a safer place for a baby to be born.

          Dr Kitty, I hope I didn’t insult you. PoopDoc was right, I was simply being sarcastic.

          • Dr Kitty

            I don’t get insulted easily, plus I got the sarcasm. We’re good 🙂

            I do love the irony in HB midwives saying docs are “arrogant” when we’re the ones saying that we don’t feel skilled enough to attend HBs, and HB midwives are all “chill, I got this with my mad wimmin skillz”.

    • fiftyfifty1

      You are so right about this Dr. Kitty. I also am a family physician, and even though I delivered far more babies than a homebirth midwife is required to deliver, I still would still NEVER attempt to deliver a baby at home. If all goes perfectly, well then great. Deliveries that go perfectly don’t need anyone assisting at all frankly. But what if even something small goes wrong? Even a simple shoulder dystocia. You need more HANDS than I have. I’m just one person. Shoulder dystocia needs a team. I could never live with myself if a healthy term baby lost its life due to one of the unpredictable flukes that can crop up in any labor. I could never live with myself.

      • I could never live with myself.

        But then you are an unenlightened sheeple who does not understand that birth is not about a baby, it is about the experience of the mother and the thrill for the midwife when it goes right, and a lost baby is a small price to pay.

        Most mothers then have to live with it. Midwives just get indignant and move on to the next.

        Hard to fathom how the Lisa Barretts live with one lost child. Repeating it so casually is incomprehensible.

    • Well I have been an Obstetrician for over twenty years and have delivered thousands of babies; never ever would I entertain the thought of a home delivery. When you have seen as many “low risk” births go sideways and turn bad as I have I would agree wholeheartedly with you about home birth! I have too much gray hair as is delivering babies in a Level I hospital.

      • MaineJen

        See there. It is BECAUSE you guys have so much experience and because you have seen so much, that you know how dangerous HB really is. These people who have only seen the “required” 30 births (30 births!!!!) and now call themselves experts…scary scary scary.
        You doctors need to speak up more. As a pregnant woman I was bombarded with messages from the NCB community, but I never heard someone who actually knew better speak up and say “You know, all that really matters is that your baby gets here safely.” Don’t be afraid to call BS when you hear BS. Sometimes it’s what people need to hear.

      • Siri

        That’s a coincidence – most CPMs have been midwives for thousands of years and have delivered over twenty babies. It’s easy to be overconfident when you haven’t got the necessary experience…

      • Mamatotwo

        This makes me wonder, how much advocating against homebirth are amazingly sane OBs/Docs such as yourselves are you doing from within the NCB community? (particularly on some of the more woo-tastic sites?) I know it’s not the easiest fight to take on, but I would have to assume that very few birth activists or NCB community members are going to find their way here to Dr. Amy, and they’re really the people who need to hear this message. The people who are on the fence and unsure what to do and really need an unbiased opinion. I hope and pray that y’all are trying some common sense with those folks.

        • CanDoc

          Here’s the problem: By the time they see me, they’re so sold on the woo, so drunk on the kool-aid, that anything I say is just further evidence that “the man” is trying to oppress them. Even though I’m a woman. It’s excruciating. I occasionally print off a post from this blog as a discussion point.

        • Dr Kitty

          MDC bans dissent like that.

          I just don’t have the patience to deal with the spelling, grammar, “cute” avatars etc that you need for any of the parenting message boards.

          I’m perfectly content to talk to my real life patients on a day to day, individual basis, but the internet stupidity is just too draining.

  • Disgusted

    Anybody else think “the last supper” when they look at the photo.

    • Guest

      Well, they certainly have a God complex.

  • TheOtherAlice

    I don’t even want to think about how many injured/dead babies are represented by the people on that panel.

    • Sue

      Was it followed by a panel of Parents of Dead Babies due to Incompetence?

      • Annie

        Only if they pay for their own tickets and spend the lecture wishing they’d only trusted birth.

  • Squillo

    Imagine a “Human Rights in Building” conference run by unlicensed contractors:

    “A person building a structure is the final decision-maker in the building process of building her building. Architects, engineers, contractors, electricians, and plumbers can inform, advise, and support her, but they must give the final decision about what will be done during construction to the person who is building the building.

    “What should this mean in practice?

    As a woman building a building, nobody has the right to tell you you “must” do anything. They can’t tell you you have no other option than to follow the building code, ground your electrical outlets, avoid ultra-flameble materials, or prevent your sewage from running into the street. The people around you only have the right to inform, advise, then ask you what you want to do.”

    • anonomom_LLLL_IBCLC

      Squillo, clearly constructing buildings is inherently masculine as evidenced by the historical record and the fact that most buildings are phallic in design. Childbirth is a sacred, mystical, inherently female event and thus is exempt from male-dominated concepts like safe outcomes. I hope I have clarified things for you.

      • Squillo

        What if I hang pretty pink curtains on my windows?

        • anonomom_LLLL_IBCLC

          I suppose this would be acceptable if they were made of organic hemp and you used your instincts to hang them rather than force the fabric to conform to rigid measurements.

      • LibrarianSarah

        I know that was supposed to be a joke but it still made me throw up in my mouth a little.

      • PoopDoc

        Absolutely. If women had any say in it we’d all be living in very elaborate caves… *snark*

        • KarenJJ

          Red tents?

          • Amazed

            Red tents, of course! Red like blood in birth.

            On a serious note, did you know that before the Church stole the colour red for Her princes, it was a colour of the Great Goddess or at least her incarnation where I lurk? And yes, it was because it was the colour of blood in birth.

            Still, the Church left the colour to some women. The fallen ones. Kind, eh?

          • Dr Kitty

            I just thought it was because red and purple dyes were expensive and any old nobody could afford brown, white, grey and yellow.

      • T.

        I, as a woman in the construction business, can help you to get in touch with your Inner Contractor and become a Building Godness, for the small fee of 400$ monthly, I’ll guide you in the ancient process of putting brick over brick to construct the haven of your Soul*.

        *(Bricks aren’t incldued in the price)

    • Captain Obvious

      Dr Amy is to birthing safety as Mike Holmes is to construction safety.

      • Jen

        Dr. Amy is the Mike Holmes of birth! love it!

  • AnothergreatpostbyDrTuteur

    The irony is that developed countries have gone back to old ways of thinking (a kind of reverse evolution, if you like). Developing countries are trying to get women to deliver in hospital because it is inherently safer to deliver a baby where there are staff to deal with an emergency that can occur at any time.

    Doctors are taught that risk assessment is a continuous process (someone ‘low risk’ can become ‘high risk’) at any point. How are these women continuously assessed at home by people who don’t know how to deal with emergencies?

    I still can’t figure out where this concept of ‘birth experience’ came from and why it is so anti-obstetrician…..