When a new mother considers her birthing options, she is often drawn to the home birthing option. No one likes to go to a hospital, and everyone is more comfortable in their own homes. The thought of being able to bring your new childinto the world in the warm environment of their home is an attractive notion for many women and their families. The argument is often raised that women all over the world have babies at home every day. Women have been giving birth to babies for thousands of years without hospitals. This argument leaves out the mortality rate associated with the babies that are born in these other countries, in the past, and at home. A home birth is a wonderful option for an experienced mother who has delivered children previously without difficulty. If there is any chance that a complication may arise in the birth, the safest place for the woman to deliver is in a hospital where she and the infant can obtain the best quality emergency medical care. The safety of the child or children should be the most important factor in deciding the location where a mother will deliver her child.
That was not the case when in December of 2003, a woman in New York decided that she wanted to have a home birth with a midwife. She chose the company called My Midwife to handle her pregnancy. On January 28, 2004, the midwife performed a sonogram evaluation of the woman and discovered that she was pregnant with twin infants. Rather than seeking more specialized medical attention for what is commonly considered a high risk pregnancy, the midwife continued to care for the mother in her home. On June 24, 2004, during an examination, the midwife determined that one of the baby boys heart rates was slowing down. She accompanied the mother to Nassau University Medical Center where they reexamined the mother. They were not able to detect any problem with the baby’s heart rate; however, they advised the mother that that her pregnancy was considered a high risk pregnancy and that they felt that the best action to take would be to admit her into the hospital. They suggested that with admittance to the hospital, they would appoint a high risk pregnancy specialist to take over the woman’s case and to delay delivery as long as possible. They informed the mother that the best course of action when delivering twins is to deliver them in a hospital setting as they commonly have more complications than single pregnancies. The mother conferred with the midwife and determined that the midwife did not have birthing privileges at that hospital. She also discovered that the midwife was not certified to deliver multiple babies. The midwife told her that she would have someone who was certified to deliver multiples present at the birth and the mother left the hospital with the midwife.
Over the next week, the midwife made contact with a nurse practitioner who was qualified to deliver twins. However, she was invited to the birth as an observer. On July 1, 2004, the mother went into labor at home. The midwife arrived along with the nurse practitioner, and one of the owners of the midwife company. The birth was video taped. One baby was delivered with little difficulty, but his brother was born dead. The mother filed a wrongful death suit when she discovered that the midwives and their company did not have the capability of monitoring the heart rates of both babies during the birth.
The mother later learned that if she had delivered in the hospital, the staff would have been able to monitor both infants. They would have been able to determine that one of the infants was in trouble and an emergency caesarian section could have been performed to deliver the twins faster, which probably would have saved the life of the second infant. The mother named the midwife, the midwife company, and the nurse practitioner in her wrongful death suit. The nurse practitioner filed a motion for the court to order a summary judgment in her case.
She contends that she was invited to the birth only as an observer and that she should not have been attached to the lawsuit in the first place since she is not even an employee of that company. The mother disagrees. She claims that the nurse practitioner took an active role in the birthing process and with the newborn infants. The mother claimed that the nurse practitioner took charge of the second twin as soon as he was born and began life saving actions in an attempt to resuscitate him. The mother contends that the nurse practitioner and the others were guilty of medical malpractice in that they assured her that the home delivery would be fine in spite of the fact that there had been a previous incident of the child’s heart rate slowing. She contends that when she was at the hospital that time, the midwife who had gained her trust had assured her that there was nothing to worry about because the child’s heart rate had stabilized. She contends that these people deviated from the standard of medical care in that they did not advise her to go to the hospital or that the delivery was any more dangerous than any other delivery.
The nurse practitioner produced a doctor who stated that the nurse practitioner did not have any contact with the mother during the prenatal process or examinations. Her contention that she was only there as an observer and to video tape the delivery was used as a reason for granting her summary judgment that she held no liability in this case. However, as other medical experts took the stand, it became clear that the nurse practitioner was responsible for much more than video taping and observing. In fact, the midwife company could not have legally performed the home birth of the twins at all if they had not had the cooperation and assistance of the nurse practitioner who was certified to deliver twins. Therefore, much of the ultimate responsibility for failing to call an ambulance for the woman when it became clear that there were problems with the delivery fall directly into the lap of the nurse practitioner as the only one present who was certified to deliver twins.
The nurse practitioner attempted to wrap herself in the protections of the Good Samaritan Law by stating that she was only a volunteer and that any steps that she took to intervene in the birth were taken with good intentions and that she should be removed from liability of medical malpractice based on this contention. The court did not agree. The court determined that the nurse practitioner took an active role in the birth and attempts to resuscitate the stillborn infant. She was the one who was certified to deliver twins and the other professionals on the scene were dependent on her expertise. Summary judgment to detach her from the suit is not granted.