Are the women who run birth blogs morally culpable for the deaths that result from their misinformation?

ethical and unethical words in wood type

There is a group of women out there who proudly and unapologetically kill and injure babies.

They are birth bloggers and they are a plague on babies who want nothing more than to live and to live uninjured by preventable birth injuries. The babies’ biggest enemy is the dozens of stupid, self important women with no obstetric education or training who dispense medical advice about childbirth.

Don’t get me wrong; they don’t mean for babies to die. But if they do, they are just unavoidable collateral damage of their favorite hobby: pretending to be experts in childbirth without any actual expert qualifications.

People like Ricki Lake and Ina May Gaskin are basically drenched in blood. One is a talk show host and the other a lay person who let her own baby die. They have lots to say about what is right with homebirth, and wrong with hospital birth, but neither of them actually has a clue. They present themselves as authority figures, but authority figures who don’t deign to take responsibility for the death and injury they leave in their wake.

Ina May is a cult leader, and probably believes every piece of nonsense that comes out of her mouth. Ricki Lake, on the other hand, knows that she isn’t a medical professional, yet she is happy to make money giving what amounts to medical advice. No matter how insulated she is from reality, Lake has got to know by this point that babies have died because their mothers watched her movies. Does it bother her? Does she lose sleep at night over those dead and injured babies? Could she care less about what happens after she takes her money and her kudos and goes home?

There seems to be an endless parade of birth clowns, who think the fact that they gave birth vaginally, or took a 16 hour doula course, or got certified as a “childbirth” educator, makes them an authority on childbirth. Everyone from the self proclaimed “public health scholar” Gina Crosley-Corcoran (I wonder what her professors would think about her “scholar” status), to uber conspiracist Jennifer Margulis (everything causes autism!!!), to the doula behind My OB Said What??!! actually have the temerity to believe that, despite an utter lack of professional qualifications, their blitherings about childbirth are wisdom to be shared with the unwary.

Consider Rebecca Dekker, blogger at Evidence Based Birth. What are her qualifications for analyzing the childbirth literature and holding forth on her conclusions? She’s a cardiac nurse.

Would you take cardiology advice from your labor and delivery nurse? You’d be a fool if you did. You’d be just as big a fool as the women who take childbirth advice from a cardiac nurse, although not as big a fool as a cardiac nurse who thinks she is qualified to analyze the obstetric literature and share her insights with the wider world.

Dekker, like all birth bloggers, is aware that her knowledge is terribly deficient. That’s why she quickly bans anyone who uses scientific evidence to contradict her. Birth bloggers are apparently “strong mamas” when it comes to vaginal birth, but pitifully fragile flowers when it comes to scientific criticism, so sensitive that they must magically make the criticism disappear.

Dekker’s latest adventure is to produce a YouTube video disagreeing with the new ACOG position paper on waterbirth. What qualifications does Dekker have to disagree with the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on the Fetus and Newborn? Does she have any neonatology training? Don’t be silly. She doesn’t need any actual training or experience in either obstetrics or neonatology to value her personal opinion above the experts in those disciplines.

Dekker waterbirth

So here’s what I want to ask Dekker:

If you make your little video and a baby dies as a result of his mother watching it, do you plan to take any responsibility for that baby’s death?

Or do you think that baby’s death has nothing to do with you?

Or, more likely, do simple fail to think at all about the outcomes that result when you share your “expertise”? I’m betting on this one.

Dekker, like most birth bloggers, is so full of herself, with outsize belief in her ability to “analyze” the obstetric literature, despite absolutely no qualifications to do so and no professional experience to draw upon, that she actually thinks she is doing a service for mothers. The reality is that she is morally culpable for spreading misinformation. She is also morally culpable for any deaths and disasters that result, whether she thinks about them or not.

Real medical professionals consider very, very carefully how they advise both patients and people who read their writings. You won’t find real medical professionals counseling people on areas outside their expertise. You won’t find them pretending that their expertise somehow magically extends beyond their actual education and training.

But then birth bloggers are not professionals. They are clowns and they would be funny except for the sad fact that babies die as a result … and birth bloggers simply go on their merry way spewing misinformation with nary a thought for the death left in their wake.