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.