Homebirth midwife Lisa Barrett arrested and charged with manslaughter



We’ve waited a long time for the image above. It’s photo of homebirth midwife Lisa Barrett in handcuffs, arrested in connection with the deaths of babies in her care.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.[/pullquote]

Controversial homebirth advocate Lisa Barrett has been granted bail after she was charged with two counts of manslaughter on Tuesday.

As part of her bail conditions, Ms Barrett cannot undertake or promote midwifery. She also cannot be present at any birth.

Deputy Chief Magistrates Andrew Cannon ordered Ms Barrett not to contact witnesses, and to take down her homebirth website, reported the Advertiser.

She was released on $10,000 bail with her husband Jeremy as guarantor.

Barrett has presided over at least 5 homebirth deaths from 2007-2012, been scathingly reprimanded by a Coroner and been the subject of an Australian Supreme Court case.

In the wake of the deaths it was thought that a criminal prosecution of Barrett would be unsuccessful, but then evidence of a cover up was found, involving alleged destruction of evidence and alleged perjured testimony directed by Barrett.

Barrett’s actions nearly defy belief.

Tate Spencer-Koch, Jahli Jean Hobbs, Sam, Tully Kavanaugh and Ian died because Lisa Barrett minimized the risks of homebirth when counseling their mothers, all of whom were at high risk for complications. Of these deaths, 1 was a shoulder dystocia, 2 were second twins, and 2 were breech babies. They died because Lisa Barrett could not handle the complications that were predicted. They died because their mothers did not have the Cesareans that would have saved the babies lives.

The practice of homebirth is notable for its recklessness, but even so Lisa Barrett was in a class by herself. During the Coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Tate and Jahli Jean, Barrett was caught live tweeting the proceedings and offering scathing comments about the prosecution’s case. If that weren’t contemptuous enough, Barrett also managed to find the time to attend Tully’s homebirth death. As a result, the Coroner’s inquest was expanded to include both Tully’s death and Sam’s death.

The report, released in 2012 was scathing in its assessment of Barrett’s conduct, including:

  • idiosyncratic views as to risk.
  • the seemingly unshakeable dogma that an adverse outcome in the homebirth setting would inevitably have occurred in a hospital setting in any event and that the professional services that are available within a hospital would not have altered the outcome.
  • Ms Barrett’s tendency to contradict or deny established evidence-based opinion.
  • Ms Barrett’s general position [on macrosomia] is at odds with the written material that Ms Barrett herself produced in evidence.
  • Much of Ms Barrett’s evidence about the desirability or otherwise of a vaginal delivery of a breech birth in the home setting was premised on a number of questionable views that she steadfastly appears to hold.
  • Ms Barrett went so far as to say that it would be impossible to tell whether a planned caesarean section would have resulted in the child being born alive. She goes so far as to suggest that the risks associated with caesarean section are higher than the risks of vaginal birth and that the risk associated with caesarean section and the morbidity and mortality of breech is the same in vaginal birth and caesarean section … This opinion is simply manifestly incorrect. It causes me to doubt the genuineness of other assertions made by Ms Barrett …

To my knowledge, during the years when these deaths were taking place, up to and including the time during which she was being investigate, Barrett never expressed remorse for these deaths. Indeed, she primarily felt sorry for herself, as she expressed on her blog Homebirth: A Midwife Mutiny:

They have raided my house so I no longer have a computer or a telephone, my husband can’t carry on his business as they took his computer and the children can’t do their school projects as they took their computer too… All for a political agenda, to scare and humilitate…

Nonetheless, in the wake of a $20,000 fine, Barrett appeared to have given up attending births and apparently believed that the babies’ deaths had been forgotten.

As she returned to her picturesque Adelaide Hills property of five years without comment last night, her distressed children told how the family had “thought it had all blown over” and had been shocked by the dawn raid.

Apparently it hadn’t “blown over.”

If convicted, Barrett faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Considering at least 5 babies are dead at her hands, that doesn’t seem excessive.