Saddened, frightened by the power of the sisterhood of deadly enablers among UK midwives

I Can't Speak

One of the great privileges of being a blogger is the ability to speak on behalf of the voiceless. If there is any group whose voice has been ignored and silenced it is the babies and mothers who have died at the hands of UK midwives.

As I wrote yesterday in my open letter to Baroness Cumberlege, Chair of the forthcoming maternity review:

I observed a group of midwives that has become a sisterhood of deadly enablers, ignoring deaths of their patients, incapable of tolerating criticism or even listening to it, patrolling social media to keep obstetricians and loss parents in line, and cheering each other on by encouraging outright dismissal of any criticism…

In the 100+ tweets that passed back and forth over the course of the day yesterday, I did not see even a single one from a midwife acknowledging the appalling litany of maternal and perinatal deaths at the hands of UK midwives. The same dangerous midwifery culture that leads to praise of homebirth after 3 C-section also leads to shirking any responsibility in maternity deaths, and the privileging of process over outcome that the obstetrics professor, the loss father, and I are working hard to confront.

Sadly, Sheena Byrom, her midwifery colleagues, and midwifery apologist Milli Hill are bullies.

Dr. Thornton, the professor of obstetrics who tweeted to me about the HBA3C has weighed in:

Byrom had crossed swords with Tuteur before – she regards her as an internet troll who enjoys picking fights with supporters of natural childbirth – and felt it inappropriate to copy a mother’s personal, albeit public, blog about her happy and successful birth to such a person. James Titcombe defended me, and soon found himself embroiled in the row. Others accused me of being unprofessional, and likened Titcombe, Tuteur and Thornton to Macbeth’s three witches

He explains:

I’m afraid I kept my head down – accusations of unprofessionalism, especially when copied to the RCOG make me nervous; I’m still in clinical practice and have had run-ins with them before – and when something goes viral it is difficult to avoid digging a bigger hole…

And, not surprisingly:

So let me be plain. Amy Tuteur is wrong. Sheena Byrom and her colleagues are also trying to make birth safer. I am sorry my tweet led to their motives being impugned yet again.

But …

When one of the retweeters wrote about the HVBA3C blog “What an amazing story thanks for sharing let’s hope it empowers more women”, I did have sympathy with Amy Tuteur’s response:

“Let’s hope it doesn’t kill anyone”.

I understand Professor Thornton’s predicament. Bullying works.

But it can only work if you have the power to harm someone who speaks out against you; they don’t have power over me.

I also understand how a medical system is supposed to protect patients. I briefly worked in a hospital that had 2 maternal deaths within one week. JCAHO (Joint Committe on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) immediately investigated and down graded the hospital’s safety rating so low that it nearly put the hospital out of business. The State of Massachusetts conducted full investigations into the deaths, and the media followed the cases carefully.

As a result, the hospital made numerous changes to improve safety and eventually regained a high safety rating. There was no cover up. There were no professionals protecting each other. The system worked as it was supposed to do. It could not bring those mothers back to their lives and families, but everyone involved made sure those deaths were not in vain.

In contrast in Morecambe Bay, and more recently in Royal Oldham/Greater Manchester Hospitals, deaths had to rise into the double digits over months or even years before anyone even took notice. UK midwives, who played a central role in many of these deaths because of their obsession with “normal birth,” are still ignoring those deaths, still incapable of tolerating criticism, still bullying their critics and still getting away with it.

Fortunately, UK midwives like Sheila Byrom and her colleagues, as well as midwifery apologists like Milli Hill can’t bully me. I will continue speaking out on behalf of babies and mothers who die preventable deaths in the US, the UK or anywhere else, and continue pointing out and publicizing midwifery bullying on social media.

The sisterhood of deadly enablers within UK midwifery must be held to account. I predict that more babies and mothers will die on the altar of midwives’ obsession with normal birth until that day of reckoning is here.