Los Angeles Midwife, Gets Probation For Delivering Baby


Katharine McCall found herself in a tough spot ... four years ago as she tended to a woman in labor. The student midwife said she was unable to reach a licensed supervisor, so ... she delivered the baby.

Her actions and her intentions were contested in a criminal case ... where a judge sentenced McCall to three years of probation ...

Midwifery has been controversial in the United States ... Ten states prohibit the profession ...

Brietta Clark, a professor at Loyola Law School, said there's a movement among mothers who want to give birth outside of hospitals. She said she understood why McCall was charged, because the medical board wants to ensure people are receiving safe services and advised properly.

"People don't have a good sense of what complications there may be," Clark said. "The licensing of midwives makes sure people are trained to respect the holistic aspect while having a trained eye."

In McCall's case, a complaint was made to the California Medical Board about a November 2007 delivery in which the baby's shoulder was stuck and the mother suffered a vaginal tear. Although the mother and baby recovered fully, McCall was charged and found guilty last month of one count of practicing medicine without a license.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus said while McCall used very poor judgment and she appeared to be motivated by money, she has had no problems with any other births since she received her license last year.

"Delivering babies is a serious business," Marcus said. "I don't accept that Ms. McCall had a right or an obligation to deliver a baby without a licensed midwife there."

... McCall never intended to have a licensed midwife deliver the baby and even bragged upon arriving at the pregnant woman's house that she had helped deliver another child without anyone's help.

"She never took responsibility in this case," ...

McCall's attorney, Stephen Demik, argued his client tried to get the pregnant woman to go to the hospital when hemorrhaging occurred during the delivery, but that she refused.

... The judge does not have the authority to revoke McCall's medical license. But ... revocation was likely after a future review before the state medical board ...

On the face of it, it seems unfair that a student midwife is charged with attending a birth without a licence, and some would argue that she had no other choice. The other options available to her would have been to attend only if she was certain that a licensed / registered midwife was present, and to direct the woman to attend hospital if there was no midwife present. The Board's purpose is to protect the public, to ensure that only those who are qualified and registered are able to practice and to set the minimum acceptable standards of care so that the public can be assured of a certain standard. In this case, the attending person was not a midwife, but a student midwife. Although it can be argued that the woman would not have expected the student midwife to act to the same standard that a licensed / registered midwife would act, the woman would have expected a level of care that was above that of a lay person. It's for this reason that universities prohibit student midwives from attending births on their own: there must always be a registered midwife present and assuming overall responsibility (legally and professionally) for the safety of the birth.

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