Mother sues midwives after baby dies during home birth

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A popular TV show and Netflix movie have put midwifery in the spotlight.

“Call the Midwife” is a BBC show about a group of nurse-midwives in London in the 1950s. “Pieces of a woman” is a Netflix movie about a woman grappling with a devastating home birth.

One Las Vegas woman who chose to have a midwife rather than a doctor care for her during her pregnancy is sharing her story.

Midwifery has been around for centuries, but is not regulated in the state of Nevada. Some midwives work with physicians while others do not. 

An expectant mother may go to a midwife instead of a doctor for care and checkups, and in some cases, choose to deliver in their homes.

Now a Clark County mother is suing the midwife who cared for her during her pregnancy and both sides are sharing their versions of what happened.

Alicia Sowers and her husband had a due date in May 2020.

“It was really a dream come true,” said plaintiff Alicia Sowers.

She said the couple chose a home birth due to concerns about going to a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they considered their home to be a special place.

It turned out the Sowers were having twins.

While her second child survived, after she was rushed to the hospital, the Sowers lost their firstborn.

 “Our son Sullivan was born gray and not breathing,” Alicia Sowers said.

There is a disagreement over how her pregnancy unfolded along with what started as a home birth.

The Sowers are suing Well Rounded Mama, the woman who runs it, Sherry Hopkins, and three other members of her team.

Sowers alleges negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Hopkins and Tori Hinkle, who is also named as a defendant, agreed to an interview with KLAS to respond to the allegations.

Hopkins says she was in charge.

“To me, the truth is on my side,” said Sherry Hopkins, certified professional midwife.

Each side has different versions of the same events.

“We had all sorts of confidence in her,” Alicia Sowers said. “It felt like a friendship, you know.”

According to the lawsuit:

“On or about April 4, 2020, Defendant WRM and/or SHERRY HOPKINS began suspecting Plaintiffs were having twins. Despite this suspicion, Defendants continued their determination that Plaintiffs were appropriate for midwifery care.

“On or about May 2, 2020, Plaintiffs underwent an ultrasound confirming twins.
Additionally, Plaintiffs confirmed that they were carrying monoamniotic-monochorionic twins.”

According to Columbia University’s obstetrics and gynecology website, for twins sharing the same sac and placenta, there is a chance their umbilical cords could be entangled and lead to the loss of one or both of their lives. That’s why this type of pregnancy is closely monitored.

The lawsuit alleges Sowers then anticipated having to register at a hospital, but Hopkins asserted home birth was still an option. Sowers had not seen an OB-GYN at all.

Hopkins and Hinkle describe Sowers as being resistant to advice. 

Their attorney says there is still no confirmation the twins shared the same sac and placenta because he claims Sowers refused to get a diagnostic ultrasound.

Hopkins says Sowers was resistant to getting an ultrasound throughout the pregnancy, even after her recommendations starting at 20 weeks.

When asked if that resistance meant it was time for them to tell Sowers to deliver at the hospital, Hopkins replied, “Well, I guess that wouldn’t be left up to me. You’re talking about removing parents’ choices by telling them what they can and can’t do.”

Hopkins said a major principle of midwifery is body autonomy.

While Sowers chose midwifery over a medical doctor, she is now questioning Hopkins and her team’s qualifications.

When asked how much research she had done on Hopkins and her team, Sowers replied, “Not enough obviously. She really explained her experience and her certifications and she took our insurance and the insurance told us, you know, that she was covered and we were good to go, and I felt like that made it very legitimate. But when you really dive into it, none of it really carries any weight.”

According to Hopkins’ website, she’s been a certified professional midwife since 2011.

The North American Registry of Professional Midwives states that “a certified professional midwife’s competency is established through training, education and supervised clinical experience, followed by successful completion of a written examination.”

“I do keep medical charts, authenticated medical charts. It’s all online. It’s all electronic. Every time we had a conversation with Ms. Sowers, every time she refused something, she signed documentation stating she knew exactly what my training was,” Hopkins said.

According to Hopkins’ attorney, those documents could not be provided to KLAS. He said he and Sowers’ attorney reached an agreement that Hopkins could only discuss Sowers’ care for this report.

Matthew Hoffmann is the Sowers’ attorney.

“While this was a risk, the company was in a unique position to know they were not equipped to handle, and they had a duty to tell their clients, ‘Hey, we can’t do this safely,’ and they didn’t,” Hoffman said.

Hopkins says this is the first loss of her career.

“We have all shed tears over her loss for this family as they have grieved,” she said.

Sowers keeps Sullivan’s ashes close.

“We cremated him. I actually have some of his remains in this ring,” Sowers said.

She added that she and her husband continue to try to cope with the loss of their child.

“It just broke our hearts.”

Sowers said she believes home births and midwives need to be regulated.

Midwifery is not regulated in the state of Nevada.  Lawmakers are considering two pieces of legislation which would create oversight for Certified Professional Midwives. The bills are Senate Bill 271 and Assembly Bill 387.

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