Laura Hamilton, a midwife, is facing two medical negligence cases currently. Parents Kylie Frost and Zachariah Sprague brought a wrongful death action in Cowlitz County Superior Court. Frost was 39 weeks along in her pregnancy and started passing blood clots; however, Hamilton allegedly explained to her that this was normal and would not need to be seen. After a nurse persisted that a problem may exist, Hamilton agreed to see Frost and had her soak in a hot tub. The bleeding remained and she experienced frequent contractions, until she felt pain in the region, and a fetal heart beat was undetectable. The deceased baby was removed via C-section; the plaintiffs believe that the baby would have survived if Frost had been instructed to proceed to an emergency room initially.
Scott and Seng Hamilton brought a suit against Laura Hamilton in Lewis County Superior Court following the birth of their son Zachary. The baby endured an injury of the brachial plexus, had damaged nerves and has paralysis in one of his arms. The suit contends that the force exercised in the baby’s delivery was extreme. Hamilton is alleged to have forcefully twisted and pulled his neck and head, which led to the physical problems.
In 2015, a jury in Lewis County heard a case accusing Hamilton of negligence which caused injuries very similar to those in the Zachary Hamilton case. The ruling went in Hamilton’s favor; however, an appeal is reportedly underway. Hamilton’s midwife license was obtained in 1983. In 1997, she received discipline from the state authority after a child was injured during delivery. Her lawyer, Donna Moniz, stated that childbirth can have bad outcomes, even with properly administered care, and that they will defend these claims.
In Washington, where both of these suits are based, there are approximately 130 licensed midwives. Most private health insurers in WA allow for midwifery and Medicaid does also. The medical malpractice insurance in the state is provided by the Midwifery & Birthing Center Professional Underwriting Association, which is a non-profit organization.
Midwives assist pregnant women with issues such as prenatal testing, providing education, and delivery. They may help with delivery at homes, birth centers and hospitals. There are three general classifications:
- Certified nurse-midwife: Registered nurses who have completed a nurse/midwifery training and passed an examination. A CNM may practice in all 50 states.
- Certified midwife: Non-nurse midwives that have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, have completed an accredited midwifery training program, and passed an examination. Very few states allow a CM to practice.
- Certified professional midwife: Non-nurse midwives with clinical experience, training and that have passed a national examination. Many states allow CPMs to practice.