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Friday, August 26, 2011

RESPONSE TO CONCERNED MOMMA-TO-BE - RE: Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

Email to Carol Downer and
Response from Carol Downer

Email from happymomma22:
Hi Carol,

I stumbled upon your blog site as I was researching my home birthing options in Los Angeles and was shocked and OUTRAGED to read your most recent posting about Katie McCall! My first instincts were to post but due to the sensitivity of the topic I thought it would be best to reach out to you. I am not an attorney nor a doctor. So please excuse any misused terminology.

You stated "The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. "WOW! What a statement, especially from an attorney. At the time of the birth, the STUDENT midwife was NOT licensed, it doesn't matter what she is today.

"McCall assured the woman that she would contact a licensed midwife to supervise her when it came time for delivery, as required by state law." Need anyone say more? She knowingly broke the law. She knew the terms of her "training." The mother labored for hours and not once did the STUDENT attempt to call anyone else or re-suggest to the the mom to be that she's putting her and her baby at risk because she's not medically licensed. I understand a women's choice to chose but since when do patients education trump the education of a medical professional or in this case a NON licensed professional?

"In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service." Exactly, expert assistance, McCall was far from an expert; I highly doubt anyone would share these sentiments if we were reading about a death of mother and baby. Wouldn't McCall carrying/administering pitocin and stitches as a non licensed midwife illegal too? This case reeks of non professional/reckless behavior on the part of the STUDENT midwife. What she did was a huge dis-service to the midwifery professional and reputation. She behaved exactly as the stereotypical law breaking student midwife. We live in a county where laws are made to protect the innocent, McCall is far from innocent or protecting the public. She just happened to be LUCKY. NOTHING ELSE. Perhaps next time everyone would prefer to be reading manslaughter chargers.

"In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies." Oh my goodness! She was put on trial by her peers and was given a fair trial - California's Operation Safe Medicine is comprised of MDs, Phds, LMs and JDs. She broke a law and we're not talking jwalking. "These" prosecutions are not political, they are a matter of public safety. If an attorney practices without a license there are consequences; the same for doctors who practice without a state license. If midwives want to be considered equals in the medical/professional community then they need to stop acting like idiots doing what they please and follow the laws that were put in place for this branch of medicine to survive and thrive. McCall put midwives two steps backwards in California. This has nothing to do with a witch hunt by other midwives, birthing community or "the male dominated" medical profession. If McCall was a man, the outcome would still be the same, guilty.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. The CDC is calling forth more midwives and Naturopathic Doctors, The AMA is publishing articles that home birthing is up by 20%, the UN is calling for breast feeding to be taught in the hospitals....Rome was not built in a day and you can't expect midwives to be received with credibility when they do things like break the law.

Again, I am a home birth advocate when done properly and legally. Please note that The Sanctuary, the birthing centre where Ms. McCall practiced which also houses an MD that has been sanctioned by the Medical Board until 2012 for having sex with his patient less than a week after removing a tumor after he medically advised her no sex for several weeks. Seems like the moral compass for these home birth professionals do not exist. Birds of a feather flock together I guess. Again, I am a feminist at heart and fight for women's right but I am not going to fight for someone that puts any women or baby's life at risk and puts me two steps back from my male counterparts.

You also mentioned that this case was on a gag order. You should look on line under CourtUpdates on Facebook and you will see Katie McCall as an administrator of a closed group that informs other midwives, doulas and other birthing professionals of the on goings of the trial. This woman is wreckless!!!! You out of all people should understand that all those people in that courthouse and in the group should be held in contempt of court for talking about the case with each other and the birthing community via Facebook, regardless of guilty verdict.

Would love to hear from you.
Concerned Momma to Be

Response from Carol Downer
Hi: I was happy to get your letter in which you expressed shock and outrage at the comments I made about the trial and conviction of Katie McCall for practicing medicine without a license. I hope that your letter and my response is the start of a dialogue around the vital issue of how best to safeguard the health and well-being of babies and moms.

First, I want to make some general comments about how the law works and what I read in the paper and about people’s behavior at the trial that I observed.

Since I still have not learned the specifics of McCall’s behavior (are you saying that she administered pitocin or stitched the mother up?), I accepted the LA Times’ statement that the mother and baby were both recovered. As a practicing attorney, I know that the District Attorney has “prosecutorial discretion”. The public expects him to weigh the various factors in each case, such as whether the alleged illegal behavior resulted in physical harm, to reach a decision.

I also know that to convict someone of a crime (not just an infraction), the prosecutor has to show not just that someone did a certain thing, but also that they had a bad intent, or at least were reckless. The LA Times summary gives no facts which indicate McCall set out to deceive or that she showed no concern for the mother’s and baby’s well-being.

I was informed by others attending the trial that the Judge had ordered McCall to shut down her website, and the supporters were hesitant to fill me in on what was happening. They showed me a copy of the judge’s order that forbade observers to even express warmth or encouragement to the defendant. Regarding your statement about McCall statement on CourtUpdates on Facebook, how does that lead you to think that they were discussing the ongoings of the trial?

Second, you believe that laws are made to protect the innocent, and that the prosecution of Katie McCall was a matter of public safety. My view is that laws come about for a variety of reasons, but licensure laws are put there to protect the certain interest of certain professional groups as well as an unwary public, and may or may not involve public safety. Since McCall went on to become a licensed midwife (a fact that the jury was not aware of), how did McCall’s prosecution increase public safety?

I stand by my statement that there is no organized political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Perhaps the CDC is calling for more midwives, but they are not lobbying to create more schools of midwifery or developing programs to educate more midwives, and CDC has no influence whatsoever on the various state legislators to implement legislation to fund and train midwives.

If you are a home birth advocate, I would be interested in working with you on ideas on how to stir up some real political support. C-section rates are skyrocketing and U.S. maternal and morbidity rates are abysmally high.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Carol Downer