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$5 Million Awarded in Midwife Malpractice Lawsuit

462411351A couple who lost their son due to what they claim was midwife malpractice was awarded $5 million by the Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan. Unfortunately, the birthing center sued in this malpractice lawsuit closed two years ago, leaving the plaintiffs unsure if they will see any of their award. Still, the lawsuit has brought focus to the issue of midwives and their role in the safe delivery of newborns in Michigan and around the country.

Complications lead to botched delivery

Sara and Jarad Snyder chose the Greenhouse Birth Center as the place to deliver their baby in 2012. The couple chose the center because it offered the comfort of home and the security of a professional medical setting. When the couple’s son Magnus was found to be in breech position at the time of his delivery, the Greenhouse staff tried to deliver him vaginally. Magnus became stuck and suffocated during the delivery process, leading to his death 13 days later.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, breech position requires special planning for the delivery process. In the majority of cases, a cesarean delivery is recommended to avoid the type of situation involving Magnus. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit alleged that if the staff at Greenhouse had handled Magnus’ birth differently, he would not have suffered severe injuries and death so soon after his birth.

The Snyders’ lawsuit was a catalyst that brought Greenhouse Birth Center under fire from other former patients as well. Melissa Pash went to Greenhouse for prenatal care and the delivery of her son Mason. However, when Pash went past her due date by two weeks, the Greenhouse staff sent her for an ultrasound, a diagnostic test not available at the birth center. The ultrasound showed Mason was in breech position, leaving Pash heading to a hospital to request a cesarean section.

Although her child was born healthy, Pash learned the baby was more than 11 pounds, rather than the eight pounds the Greenhouse staff had estimated. She also discovered it was likely she had gestational diabetes during her pregnancy – a condition Greenhouse had failed to diagnose and the probable reason her baby was so large. Pash told the Lansing State Journal it frightened her to think the Greenhouse staff had missed so much during her pregnancy.

For Sara and Jarad Snyder, the story did not end as well. When their newborn suffered complications during birth, he was transferred to a nearby hospital for treatment. Sadly, the hospital staff was unable to save Magnus and he died 13 days after his birth. The couple realized after their son’s death that Michigan and other states do not require regulation or oversight for birthing centers, leaving parents unsure if the training, expertise and equipment will be available if any problems arise during labor and delivery.

Midwife qualifications

Without regulation, patients seeking midwife care for their pregnancy and delivery must determine on their own whether the midwife they choose has the qualifications necessary to ensure a safe delivery for their children. Midwives may be certified as midwives, nurse-midwives or professional midwives. Some midwives are not certified at all; they are known as traditional or community-based midwives.

Midwives that are not certified may have learned their profession through apprenticeships and self-study. Those with certification will have a combination of formal education or training and apprenticeship experience. The only type of midwife certification recognized by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is certification as a nurse-midwife.

As Sara and Jarad tragically discovered, lack of certification also means lack of accountability to the patients they serve. Although the Snyder’s brought a lawsuit against Greenhouse, the center had closed its doors before the verdict was rendered. The center also did not carry any type of malpractice insurance, which leaves the Snyders without much legal recourse in terms of actually collecting their award. However, the lawsuit has increased awareness with the issue of midwife qualifications and prompted lawmakers in Michigan to take another look at how midwives are licensed by the state.