Miracle baby? There’s nothing miraculous about a baby who dies because of out of hospital birth.


The media loves a heartwarming story, but calling Baby Boy Accurso a “miracle baby” isn’t merely misguided; it’s grotesque.

People Magazine claims ‘Miracle’ Baby Dies Just 18 Days After His 37-Year-Old Mom Suddenly Died During Childbirth:

Just 18 days after his mother suddenly died during childbirth, a newborn died on Friday after his family had to make the unbearable decision to take him off life support, the family’s pastor confirmed…

Matthew Sr. continued, noting that while it was an agonizing decision, he still considered his son a “living miracle,” as he managed to defeat the odds and open his eyes, breathe on his own and pump blood through his heart.

But the death of a baby and mother isn’t a heartwarming miracle story; it’s a tragedy possibly precipitated by the mother’s choice to give birth outside the hospital.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The death of a baby and mother isn’t a heartwarming miracle story; it’s a tragedy possibly caused by the choice to give birth outside the hospital.[/pullquote]

What People Magazine fails to appreciate is that Baby Accurso’s death was almost certainly preventable and his mother’s death may have been preventable, too.

Chiropractor Matt Accurso Sr. has eagerly, repeatedly and at great length shared his “miracle” spin on what is possibly a preventable double tragedy that did not have to happen, but he’s been surprisingly short on the details of the birth itself.


…Matthew is a living miracle…

Without an ounce of oxygen he made it in an ambulance to an emergency room, through an emergency c-section and into a NICU. Matthew then defied all odds and opened his eyes, breathed on his own, pumped blood through his strong heart …

I cannot be sure, but it sounds like a home or birth center birth gone wrong. There was another detail that strongly suggested to me that this was possibly a homebirth. According to the local TV station’s first report of the story:

Though the CDC report [on maternal mortality] said more than half of those deaths are preventable, Accurso’s family said it was a very rare and unpreventable medical emergency that took her life.

Before an autopsy, it is almost impossible to know the definitive cause of a maternal death and whether or not it was preventable. Final results from an autopsy can take weeks to firmly establish the details. Yet this father insisted he already knew, though he provided no evidence from medical personnel or tests. In my experience, that is often a sign of defensiveness over choosing an out of hospital birth that results in death.

What kind of unpreventable medical emergencies result in the death of the mother?

These include a ruptured uterus as a result of a previous C-section, amniotic fluid embolus, stroke or heart attack. All can be unpreventable and deadly, but there’s an important caveat: death is NOT inevitable; most can be treated in hospitals with varying degrees of success. Even amniotic fluid embolus, the most deadly among these events, has a 40% survival rate in a hospital. Moreover, the baby’s life can typically be saved by immediate C-section.

In other words, it’s not clear that the death of this mother and her baby was either unpreventable or inevitable. In fact, the details of the story suggest that the baby almost certainly could have been saved.

Lauren Accurso stopped breathing at home. Had she been in the hospital, she could have been intubated immediately and possibly there would have been minimal disruption of oxygen to her brain and her baby’s brain. A C-section could have been performed quickly and the baby might not have sustained any brain injury, in contrast to the devastating brain damage that occurred during the time it took to reach the hospital.

Lauren Accurso died because she reached the emergency room AFTER her life might have been saved. Had the same precipitating event taken place in the hospital, there was a very real chance of saving her life.

There is nothing “miraculous” about the fact that the baby survived as long as he did. It was entirely due to medical professionals. It was the result of tremendous, ongoing efforts of ambulance personnel, emergency room physicians and nurses, obstetricians, neonatologists and a massive amount of high tech medical care. The fact that it didn’t succeed wasn’t their fault. That lies in the choice to give birth far away from lifesaving medical professionals and their technology.

Hospitals are like infant car seats. Most of the time they aren’t needed because most driving trips do not involve an accident. But when an accident occurs they are invaluable.

Would anyone call it a miracle if a mother fails to put a baby in a car seat and that baby is subsequently ejected through the windshield onto the pavement? I doubt it. Would anyone call it a miracle if the baby survives to arrive at the hospital profoundly brain damaged? I doubt it. Would anyone call it a miracle if the baby eventually dies from the brain damage sustained by not being in a car seat? I doubt it.

So why are we pretending that this very likely preventable death is anything other than a horrific tragedy?