post #1 of 34
2/13/07 at 6:44pm
You could always talk to all the people and then say, "Well, okay, I'll agree to the hospital if you insist, BUT I'm going to stay home to labor as long as possible before I come in." Then say, "Well, OOPS! I told you I was going to stay home as long as possible, but then to my surprise the baby just came out on his/her own!!"
|It is perfectly legal to give birth alone, unassisted - ie with no midwife in attendance - whether this was accidental, or deliberate. Some women choose this option because they cannot get the sort of non-intrusive, supportive midwifery care they require. For others, giving birth unassisted is a positive choice which they believe to be best for them and their babies. I do not wish to either promote or condemn planned unassisted birth; the aim of this section is simply to inform. For links to sites advocating unassisted birth, see  below.
It is illegal for anyone other than a UK registered midwife or doctor to 'attend' a woman in labour except in an emergency. This means that if it can be proved that the birth partner intended to act as a midwife, he (or she, but 'he' is used here for simplicity) may be prosecuted. The birth partner may even be liable to prosecution if he was present at the baby's birth, even if he was in another room at the time. Some have suggested that 'present' means in the same room, but it could be interpreted as 'nearby'.
In the one case in recent years where such a prosecution has been successful, the baby's father, Brian Radley, had stated explicitly to the health authorities that he intended to act as a midwife for the birth, and this statement of intent helped the prosecution's case. His wife was told by the health authority that, if she called a midwife, the midwife would arrive and immediately call an ambulance to take her to hospital. Mrs Radley had vowed never to enter the hospital again after she received poor treatment during there when having her first baby. Given the health authority's unsupportive attitude, the Radleys felt that conducting the birth themselves was their best option. Brian Radley was fined £500, but his fine was paid by a doctor who was appalled at the way this couple had been treated by the medical profession. 
The threat of planning an unassisted home birth is sometimes used by mothers bargaining with unhelpful authorities. Booking a home birth can turn into a game of nerves, with the health authority insisting that it will not send a midwife. If the mother calls while in labour and states that she will not (or cannot) go into hospital, and requests a midwife, they would almost certainly send a midwife if the mother stood her ground. To date, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there have not been any cases where a midwife was not sent when the mother requested one in this situation. However, few women want to engage in this sort of debate while in labour.
Consider the situation where a mother called while in labour and refused to go into hospital, but the health authority did not send a midwife, and the mother gave birth alone. If the baby or mother suffered harm as a result, then the health authority could presumably be sued for failing to provide the expected level of care. However, it could also be argued that there was contributory negligence from the mother, since it was reasonably forseeable that harm might occur if she gave birth without medical supervision. This would reduce any liability of the health authority. So, while health authorities should bear in mind that they might be vulnerable to negligence claims if they failed to send a midwife, there are limitations on the likely extent of their liability.