Utah Midwife Charged with Manslaughter Following Failed Home Birth of Preemie Twins

Last week a lay midwife in Utah was ordered to stand trial on charges of second-degree felony manslaughter for her responsibility in a series of events that led to the death of premature baby. The midwife, Vicki Dawn Sorensen, allegedly refused to take a mother, laboring with premature twins, to the hospital for more skilled treatment and delivery.  The midwife is also accused of falsifying emergency medical information.  Reportedly, the lay midwife even attempted to stop the hemorrhaging mother from leaving a home-based birth center in an ambulance. One of the two premature twins died as a result of the home birth, the second would be delivered via emergency C-section at the hospital.

According to reports by the Salt Lake Tribune, the same midwife may have been responsible for other infant deaths following home births gone wrong.  Police documents indicate that the midwife and her daughter, also a midwife, may have buried infant remains in secret.

Licensure is available for lay midwives in the state of Utah, however, Sorenson chose to practice without a license. A trend that is not uncommon for lay midwives that prefer a lack of regulation.  Among the many catastrophic events of the day, Utah authorities allege the following in their charges against this lay midwife:

  • Utah law prohibits lay midwives from delivering twins; Sorensen proceeded with an attempted delivery of twins more than one month premature.
  • When it was suggested that the family be transferred to the closest hospital, Sorenson stated that she “did not like” that hospital and would deliver the infants at her birthing center.
  • The midwives at the birthing center had no device on hand to force respiration of the distressed infant – a simple piece of equipment that could have potentially saved his life.
  • Emergency medical technicians that arrived at the scene reported that the midwives were attempting infant CPR on the baby boy, using a technique that was “12 years out of date.”
  • When asked for medical records to accompany the infant to the hospital, the midwife claimed to not have been present during the delivery and to have no knowledge of the baby’s gestational age, or the mother’s medical history.  Instead, Sorensen claimed that the mother “walked in off the street for help with the delivery.”

Also involved in the treatment of this family was a naturopath who allegedly tried to stop the hemorrhaging mother’s labor with an IV of magnesium. Court documents indicate that the naturopath was “unaware of how to administer the substance and had to call the hospital to ask how, and to ask the amount.”

Doctors at nearby hospitals have stated that the first born twin would have had “a 100 percent chance of survival” had he been born in a hospital.

North Carolina does not currently offer licensure to lay midwives. Instances such as this devastating delivery in Utah further demonstrate the disparity between the skills and training of lay midwives v. physicians.  With lives on the line – home birth with an unskilled provider simply isn’t worth the risk.

California Naturopaths Seek to Prescribe Controlled Substances, Perform In-Office Procedures

Only 17 states in the U.S. regulate naturopaths as they perform complimentary and alternative health services.  Such services often include nutrition management, acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage. These services are each licensed in North Carolina under individually trained providers. Like a majority of the states, North Carolina does not license naturopaths to practice medicine.

Since becoming licensed in 2005, naturopaths in California have made many efforts to gradually expand their scope of medical practice. This year is no different, with CA naturopaths pushing legislators to consider legislation that would not only require insurance companies to reimburse for their services but also expanding those services to do the following:

  • Prescribe medications without medical training or the requirement for physician supervision, including controlled substances.
  • Allow naturopaths to supervise other health care providers such as nurse practitioners in addition to the current allowance for naturopathic assistants.
  • Perform in-office procedures including mole removal for biopsy.
  • Perform joint manipulation services typically performed by physicians and chiropractors.

Such an expansion of scope of practice goes well beyond the training of naturopaths, shifting their focus from complimentary health care providers to the equivalent of a physician. Physicians have 4 years of medical education and at least 3 years of residency training prior to practicing at the level sought by naturopaths in California.

We encourage North Carolina lawmakers to continue to protect patients by only licensing those who have attended medical school to practice medicine in our state.