Monday, April 20, 2009

Compassion or Conviction?

Because of this pregnancy, and yes it's still going well (heard the heartbeat last week), I have terrible insomnia. Here's how it goes: tackle all the daily chaos, then as soon as the kids are asleep I also pass out from exhaustion. Then at around 1am something wakes me up and I can't go back to sleep until about 4:30am, which is not the greatest sleep cycle for the Iron-Mother marathon which I take part in every. single. day.

So, during last night's bout with insomnia, I ran across the story of Australian woman Janet Fraser. Ms. Fraser is a staunch advocate for home birth and for women feeling empowered to trust themselves, rather than the medical community, when it comes to pregnancy and birthing health care. The story evokes many different emotions from me: sadness, compassion, and anger. On March 27, she gave birth to her daughter at a home water birth. The delivery was unassisted by any medical personnel or midwife. Tragically, her baby died. It is believed that her baby had cardiac arrest, but the facts have yet to unfold as to whether the baby died during the nearly week-long home labor or shortly thereafter.

My sadness for this woman comes from feeling that no mother should have to experience that kind of loss. I have compassion for her because she was truly trying to do right by her baby and that very decision may have been the direct cause of the baby's demise.

But my anger comes not from the idea of home birth (which I have no problem with). My issue is that, because of her distrust of the medical community, Janet Fraser admits that she never received any prenatal care for her baby. Never saw a doctor or midwife. Never had an ultrasound. Never had any genetic testing. Never had a stethoscope held to her belly. This woman has two other children, one of which who was born in an emergency c-section procedure. So, she should be intimately aware of the complications that can arise during pregnancy and delivery. Yet, she was so bound to her convictions that a woman does not need to rely on Medical professionals for health care, that she put her own daughter's life in jeopardy and faced the ultimate consequence.

Many people feel that Ms. Fraser has suffered enough by the loss of her child and that her grief should be enough punishment. Other people feel that she should face the legal responsibility, the same as any person who neglected to give a child proper medical care.

What do you think? Do you believe that this poor woman should simply live with the consequences of her actions, and let her conscience be her own personal jail? Or should she face the same punishment as any child-care advocate who was negligent in their responsibilities, thereby contributing to the child's death?

So, what's your take?


E said...

This is so sad. but we can't criminal stupid. This was really just ignorance. I mean home birth is fine. Birth is not usually a medical moment. But prenatal care has shown to improve the lives and outcomes of newborns dramatically.
Fear and ignorance are age old killers. There is nothing new here. I think her suffering is punishment enough.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

That's so sad :(
I am sure the pain she feels is worse than any punishment she could get :(
I am happy your baby is doing well and I hope you can get some sleep soon!

Jennifer said...

I think it depends. Does she believe that it was through her own actions that she caused her daughter's death? If so, then the guilt will be enough to torment her the rest of her life. I'm sure that is something you can never move beyond.

But if not, then she should be punished to the full extent of the law until she is made to understand that her foolishness and wish for the "perfect birth" killed her daughter.

Sorry, this is one of those things that I feel strongly about.

Noah's Mommy said...

what a tragic story....

That is a hard moral dilemna....If it isn't against the law to not receive pre-natal care...then I can't say she should be prosecuted....I think it really depends on what they say...did the child have a genetic defect?...was it solely due to the birth?...Lots of questions...I'm sure this mother is tormented beyond belief both with herself...and the community...Obviously she really wanted to take care of her child...(in her twisted thinking) I'm sure she is devestated....

I think the community will be treating her badly...and I'm sure the ostracism will be worse than any legal punsihment she could face....

Christine said...

You know for centuries women have done this at home, and results have shown that some made it...and some did not. It is the curse of doing things the hostorical way. The way you chooose to give birth is a mother's choice, and that should not be taken away no matter the result.

I feel she should not be punished for a choice she made, the death of her infant is what became of her choice, and that is what she will live with. I know my oldest would not be here if it were not for medical intervention to the extreme and that is the choice I made.

Just because modern medicine has made the advances it has does not mean it is a right or a force to follow legally, but I do feel sorrow over the situation.

Sturgmom said...

I think it's a slippery slope in many directions.

If she is prosecuted, that sets a precedence for the government to be able to dictate so many things about health care. Should prenatal care be required by law? Moving down the slope, if prenatal care is legally required, will women eventually be forced to terminate nonviable pregnancies? Forced steriliation? Where does it stop?

I also think that in order for her to be prosecuted, the courts will have to see the fetus as a human being, which isn't going to happen b/c then that brings abortions into the question and all the controversy surrounding the "beginning" of life.

I find it horribly sad and tragic. I WISH people would receive prenatal care. But I also know that health care is one area I don't want the government involved in my life (alhtough we're scarily headed there). Sometimes freedom means accepting the good with the tragic. Let me know if I didn't make sense here...

Cookie Crums said...

What a sad, tragic story! I honestly don't think the woman deserves criminal charges b/c there has to be a line drawn somewhere as far as choices go. It's also tragic that she sees the medical profession and knowledge that these professionals have in such a negative light.

To say she learned a lesson is cold b/c a child's life was lost in the process....which in my opinion the most tragic of all!

Wendy said...

No wonder you're out of it & crying a lot. Oh, my. You need a lot more sleep!

If you can, lay down the law for an enforced "quiet time" in the afternoon. "You don't have to sleep, but you may not move off that bed!" and try to get some rest via a nap.

J said...

It is a sad, sad story. I think it is not only a moral, but a legal dilemna if prosecution or a lawsuit is involved.

For example, many people do not believe ultrasounds (my husband is one). Would prosecuting this woman open the door for legislation that would REQUIRE me to have an ultrasound even though it might be against my husband's convictions? And what about testing such as amniocentesis, which can be risky - would doctors eventually become afraid NOT do do it for fear of a lawsuit?

It's just interesting how prosecution and lawsuits tend to start us down a path we don't always see at first... it seems to make so light of the fact that a mother lost her child as well.

Jen said...

this is a terrible thing. I think that this mother has suffered enough and should not be charged with anything. she is going to have to life with this for the rest of her life.

But there is a reason why back in the day child birth was and still is in some countries the number one killer of women and children. It is risky business and things can and do go wrong. You NEED a medical professional there!