Idaho Birthing Center Investigated After 3 Deaths

The Idaho Board of Midwifery suspended the licenses of a mother-daughter midwife team at a Meridian birthing center that’s under investigation following the deaths of three infants.

Jerusha Goodwin and her mother, Coleen Marie Goodwin, of The Baby Place were targeted by the agency’s board on March 23 after it concluded it had to intervene after the deaths between October 2010 and August 2011.

Investigators contend the Goodwins impeded paramedics, kept improper records, withheld information and failed to facilitate the immediate transfer of babies and mothers to a hospital for emergency care.

“Due to the nature of the allegations… as well as the factual support for these allegations, respondent’s conduct as a licensed midwife presents an immediate and ongoing danger to the public health, safety and welfare,” investigators wrote in the 11-page suspension report for Jerusha Goodwin.

Neither woman responded to phone calls seeking comment.

A website for The Baby Place says Coleen Marie Goodwin is the owner of the business, while Jerusha Goodwin is its administrator. It indicates they have helped women in more than 1,000 pregnancies.

The women also have been named in a separate 2010 lawsuit stemming from a 2008 birth in which a couple said their child suffered permanent brain damage. The lawsuit filed in Idaho’s 4th District Court is set for a jury trial Monday.

In one of the cases that led to the license suspensions, the Meridian Police Department is investigating the August 2011 death of an infant at The Baby Place whose mother was in labor for more than 48 hours, including more than 10 hours of pushing, KTVB-TV reported.

The Board of Midwifery said the baby was born limp and unresponsive, but midwives waited 11 minutes before calling paramedics.

In addition to that case, the board said it is also investigating the October 2010 death of an infant who suffered significant blood loss because the umbilical cord wasn’t clamped before it was cut by a student midwife.

And in a June 2011 death, a midwife delayed paramedics from entering the patient’s room for about four minutes, the agency said.

Coleen Goodwin “failed to fully-cooperate with paramedics. She had to be asked questions multiple times before responding and would not provide adequate information,” according to the agency’s report. “Moreover, respondent initially failed to state why transport to the hospital was necessary.”

Members of the state midwifery board didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking further comment.

Ninety-nine percent of U.S. births take place in hospitals, though births using midwives are on the rise.

A 2005 British Medical Journal study – cited by the Idaho Midwifery Council, the industry’s state association – indicates planned home births by low-risk mothers overseen by certified midwives have mortality rates similar to low-risk births in hospitals.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association contends `”he safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate post-partum period is in a hospital or a birthing center within a hospital,” so women and their babies have quick access to technology should a medical emergency arise.

Nancy Draznin, vice president of the Idaho Midwifery Council in Genesee, said she isn’t familiar with details of the Goodwins’ case but hopes the investigations don’t undermine the public’s faith in midwives.

“Idaho midwives really do set a high standard for care,” Draznin said.

In the lawsuit against the Goodwins, Adam and Victoria Nielson allege they were negligent during the 2008 birth of their child that resulted in permanent brain injury, including cerebral palsy.

The Nielsons’ lawyer, Eric Rossman, said his clients’ litigation preceded Idaho’s midwife licensing law and is not a part of the suspension case.

Like most Idaho birthing centers run by midwives, the Goodwins do not have a medical malpractice insurance policy, so Rossman said a large financial settlement is unlikely.

Still, he said he’s pursuing the case without a fee because he believes the midwives should be forced to improve their practices – or end them.

The civil trial could be postponed because the Goodwins are considering filing for bankruptcy protection. Steve French, their bankruptcy attorney, declined comment.