Three babies. All of them died at home having never seen the inside of a hospital.
Today, the South Australian Coroner has found that it was a ‘matter of certainty’ that three newborns would have lived if their mothers had elected to undergo a caesarian … or even if they’d just been born in a hospital.
Neither of these things happened, however, because in each of the three cases the baby’s mother chose to give birth at home with the assistance of a midwife.
There’s another common denominator: all three births were presided over by a former midwife (now homebirth advocate) Lisa Barrett. She was a registered midwife at the time of the births.
“Ms Barrett told the coroner that she had given up her midwifery registration and had elected to act only as a birth advocate because of a new regulatory framework which discouraged midwives from taking on some women, essentially leaving them unsupported.
The coroner said Ms Barrett was also wrong in some of her opinions regarding the likely outcome had a caesarean section been performed in one of the births and had been “completely oblivious” to the deterioration in the condition of one of the unborn babies.”
The Coroner didn’t mince his words. He meant them to be heard and heard clearly: “In other words, it is said that these deaths could and should have been prevented.”
The deaths of babies are not the only dangers of a birth that takes place at home.
Fact: birth is risky. It’s natural, but it’s risky.
The Coroner, Anthony Schapel, has gone further and recommended widespread reform and changes to prevent more senseless tragedy. The Adelaide Advertiser reported:
“In his findings, Mr Schapel said the practice of midwifery should only be carried out by registered midwives.”It ought to be regarded as an offence, punishable by law, for midwives to practice midwifery without registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia,” he said.
He also urged the minister to introduce new legislation imposing a duty on any person providing a health service to report to the Department of Health the intention of any person to undergo a homebirth known to have an increased risk of complication.
The parents of both babies had employed Ms Barrett as a midwife to attend the homebirth after undergoing emergency caesarean sections in the delivery of their first children.”
So let’s break this down.
- Three babies who could have lived, would have lived, had they been born in a hospital.
- Three women who knew their births would be high-risk but insisted on home births anyway.
- A midwife who could not and was unable to provide the same level of medical support as a hospital.
- Three mothers who lost their children because they wanted a ‘lifestyle’ birth.
No criminal charges have been recommended against Ms Barrett.
Still pending are the coronial findings after an investigation into the death of Roisin Fraser – the daughter of free birth and homebirth advocate Janet Fraser. Free birthing is also done at home but even more high risk because it is done without ANY medically trained supervision or support. Not even a midwife is in attendance.
Janet Fraser’s birth (her third) was also known to be high risk due to her second pregnancy ending in an emergency caesarean. She claims her daughter was stillborn at home but there is evidence to suggest the baby died during the birth process due to a lack of medical support.
If you have had or ever considered a homebirth, has the Coroner’s damning findings changed your mind?