It’s rather amusing watching homebirth advocates thrashing about on the Web, Facebook and Twitter trying to deal with the new paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics equating homebirth to driving without putting a seatbelt on your child.
Before I address what they will do, I can tell you with absolutely certainty what they WON’T do. Despite the fact that the paper indicates that ethicists have now joined obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians to declare that scientific evidence demonstrates that homebirth is not safe, advocates will not even give the slightest consideration to reevaluating their cult-like belief in the safety of homebirth.
It is this, more than anything else, that demonstrates that homebirth has nothing to do with science. For homebirth advocates, the purported safety of homebirth is an article of faith every bit as inviolable as the notion of intelligent design is for creationists. In other words, it is non-falsifiable, a hallmark of a non-scientific claim.
- Homebirth advocates will NOT stop to reflect on the fact that the only people who claim homebirth is safe are homebirth advocates themselves.
- They will NOT undertake a systematic review of the scientific literature that encompasses ALL recent papers on homebirth, not merely the ones they like or the ones they feel confident they can address.
- Homebirth advocates will NOT under any circumstances entertain the notion that they are wrong in their slavish devotion to anything that increases the autonomy of midwives.
- Homebirth advocates will NOT under any circumstances consider that their obsession with process has compromised outcomes.
What will they do?
1. They will fling citations of out of date papers or irrelevant papers. They will cite crappy studies by people like Ank de Jonge who have sliced and diced the data in a thousand ways in a fruitless effort to pretend that homebirth is safe.
2. They will whine that “everything has risks” as if that means they don’t have to consider the specific risks of homebirth.
3. The will invoke the evil triumvirate of doctors/drug companies/formula manufacturers to insinuate that a Professor of Philosophy at Oxford is somehow part of their evil plan to take over the world by making everyone deliver by C-section and then bottle feed.
4. Many will simply ignore what they cannot rebut in the hopes that their followers won’t notice the difference.
In other words, they will do everything in their power to avoid reassessing their immutable belief in the safety of homebirth.
It will be fun to watch homebirth advocates twist themselves into knots to justify ignoring not just obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians, but now ethicists as well.