Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quick hit: Midwife Cara Muhlhahn sued for negligence

I've blogged about celebrity midwife Cara Muhlhahn on Equal Writes before, but she bears revisiting today because she is being sued for "gross negligence" by a Manhattan couple who are claiming that she was responsible for the stillbirth of their son. Catherine and Ricardo McKenzie, who turned to "outlaw" midwife Muhlhahn after seeing Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born, are contending that Muhlhahn broke state law by failing to refer Catherine McKenzie to a hospital during her three-day labor. Their lawyer, Richard Reich, said, "This is a woman who identified herself as 'the guardian of safety.' Her practice was anything but safe."

If you read Andrew Goldman's NY Mag profile of Muhlhahn last March, or my post about it here, you know that Muhlhahn has a somewhat checkered and controversial past. She has popularized, and normalized, the idea of home birth significantly. But this particular case has also hurt midwives - inspiring, among other media coverage, a Today Show segment last month titled "The Perils of Midwifery" that sparked much outcry among the home birth community.

I wrote a longer and more extensive post on the Muhlhahn controversy at - take a look if you're interested.

What do you think? Are Cara Muhlhahn's practices dangerous, or are they defensible?


At October 22, 2009 at 1:31 PM , Anonymous Jessica said...

How are we supposed to "judge" her practice if we're not given enough facts to decide?
It's too little to know that the baby died after 3 days of labor.
He could have died in a hospital, or perhaps her team actually mismanaged the birth, but without knowing what actually happened, there's no way any of us are entitled to speak a word.

At October 26, 2009 at 1:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's plenty of information to judge her practice. The baby was not coming out after three days because she was tangled in her cord. This eventually killed her.

Had she been in a hospital, this would have been picked up by EFM or color doppler. She would have been delivered by c-section and been fine. This was completely preventable.

These midwives just want to stand around and emote with laboring women. Their monitoring of fetal oxygenation through primative methods like auscultation are a sham. At best they are done too infrequently by those unskilled at differentiating normal from abnormal. At worst, they are merely going through the motions because all they want is to have the woman deliver vaginally and share in the "empowerment".

They are ready to jump up, as this midwife did on a prior death, and pretend the baby suddenly died at the end and it was unavoidable. No, the baby was in distress for a while (fetuses don't flatline), and she couldn't recognize, didn't bother to check (because she trusted birth instead), and/or was so adverse to c-sections she wouldn't transfer. I suspect the first is the main culprit, but the other two were prominent.

At October 28, 2009 at 1:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you know, Cara does use a doppler. She would have know if the heart rate went down at anytime. I agree that we just don't have all the facts to make a clear judgment.

At October 29, 2009 at 10:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just so you know, Cara does use a doppler. She would have know if the heart rate went down at anytime. "

That's baloney. Just because midwives HAVE dopplers, doesn't mean they 1) know how to use them 2) know what they are listening to 3) know what to do.

Is everyone supposed to beleive that in less than 1000 low risk deliveries that this midwife has had two babies that suddenly died with no signs of distress prior?

That can't happen (except in midwifery excuses).

The fact that a particular individual doesn't know enough about medicine to know the excuse isn't medically possible doesn't mean obvious signs malpractice aren't there. It is glaring, especially with her history of same exact thing a few years ago.

At October 29, 2009 at 11:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU people are full of baloney. pull your heads out of your judgemental a*ses. have you looked into how many babies die daily in the hospitals here in the states? look beyond your stereotypical way of thinking-anything can happen at any time. this is something you know as a mother to be, who chooses to birth at home. stop with the witch hunt on cara and midwifery in general. if you want to judge, compare midwife statistics with hospital statistics. where was these people's plan b?

At November 2, 2009 at 2:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, let's compare statistics for deaths that occur during labor.

Johnson and Daviss -- midwives have 10/10,000 in low risk women

Hospitals have 3/10,000 for women of all risks and 1/10,000 for low risk women.

This lady, going by what is known from news and other public sources has about 2/700 or about 30/10,000

Easy births:
Midwives 10 deaths
This midwife 30 deaths
Hospitals 1 death

Is that math too hard for you?


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