Indiana Midwife Prosecuted for Practicing Medicine Without a License

Prosecution of an Indiana midwife for practicing medicine without a license shows that criminal enforcement of medical licensing laws against practitioners continues.

In "Prosecution of Midwife Casts Light on Home Births" (3/3/06) the New York Times reported on a successful delivery by a midwife that nonetheless resulted in prosecution.

"Doctors, legislators and prosecutors in Indiana and in the nine other states with laws prohibiting midwifery by people other than doctors and nurses say home births supervised by midwives present grave and unacceptable medical risks. Nurse-midwives in Indiana are permitted to deliver babies at home, but most work in hospitals.

Midwives see it differently. They say the ability of women to choose to give birth at home is under assault from a medical establishment dominated by men who, for reasons of money and status, resent a centuries-old tradition that long ago anticipated the concerns of modern feminism."

The prosecutor apparently compared practicing midwifery without a proper license to driving a truck without a license.

Many feel unlicensed practice 'flies below the radar,' and will not be investigated unless an injury occurs. But the risks of prosecution are still serious, as this case shows.

"Around the nation, there are some 3,000 midwives without formal medical training, according to the Midwives Alliance of North America. About 1,100 of them, including Ms. Williams, have been certified by the North American Registry of Midwives, a private agency whose evaluations are recognized in some 20 states. In Indiana, though, only doctors and nurses may deliver babies."

Professional associations and training programs have an obligation to inform students of the risks of unlicensed practice, although many fail to do so.

Notably, the couple receiving the home birth described the midwife's services as "healing and miraculous."