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the scene reported that the midwives were attempting infant CPR on the baby boy, using a technique that was “12 years out of date.”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.

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