Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The legal implications of a homebirth gone wrong

Obstetricians don't want to back up homebirths because it is almost impossible to legally defend yourself if something goes wrong. Insurance companies recognize this and will not extend malpractice coverage to doctors involved in homebirth (and in some cases will not write policies for midwives, either). It's easy to understand why when you see what happens after a baby dies because of homebirth.

The following news story in today's edition of The Australian, Twins' home birth risk 'downplayed', is a classic example. The parents of the twins admit that they were advised that there were risks to a homebirth of twins. And:
... within an hour of first twin Hannah being born early on July 19, 2004, independent midwife Wendy Thornton found sister Esther's heart rate dropping. Esther was born three hours after Hannah during an emergency caesarean section, but died after having seizures and a heart attack in the ensuing 54 hours.
At the coroner's inquest, the babies' father now claims:
"Wendy was overjoyed about Hannah being born and it was almost like 'Hannah's born, let's celebrate'," Mr Stephen told the inquest. "I thought, let's concentrate on the next one because Hannah's out." But two hours later, Esther had still not been born. Ms Thornton phoned the obstetrics department at Flinders Medical Centre and then called an ambulance.
The father attempts to implicate the doctor, as well:
[He] said he and his wife had been given "non-specific" warnings about twin home births and encouraged to have them in hospital. He claimed "back-up" obstetrician Christopher Wilkinson had "downplayed" concerns.
The parents admit that they were advised of the increased risk of homebirth of twins, yet they are now accusing the midwife of malpractice (which she probably committed), AND they are accusing the doctor of not warning them even more. It would be interesting to read the entire transcript of the inquest. I wonder whether the parents accept THEIR OWN responsibility for the baby's death. After all, they were the ones who chose to ignore the doctor's medical advice. Or are they trying to shed responsibility by claiming that they did not truly understand the magnitude of the risk.


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