Midwife, and Homeopathy, Faulted in Home-Birth Death

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Many question the culpability of Australian midwife Gaye Demanuele in the wake of investigations into the death of Caroline Lovell during her home birth in 2012. And while Demanuele played a major role in Lovell's passing, a closer look may show the real culprit: homeopathy.

In January 2012, Demanuele, an outspoken home birth advocate, served as senior midwife in Lovell's home birth. After giving birth, Lovell experienced severe blood loss and begged to call an ambulance. According to the investigating coroner, Demanuele refused several times, never checking her blood pressure or effectively monitoring blood loss.

Demanuele instead tried a homeopathic "remedy" to relieve Lovell's anxiety. Only after Lovell fainted in a pool of her own blood and went into cardiac arrest was she taken to a hospital, where she died 12 hours later.

It was later found that Demanuele's great bias against hospital birthing played a role in other cases. Two months after Lovell's death, she had a hand in the home birth of a baby boy who died seven months later from severe brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. She had also served as midwife in a home stillbirth six months before this. The mother here made clear the role Demanuele's beliefs played in this.

"She told me an ambulance would be expensive as I would not be regarded as a medical emergency," she states. "The feeling I really could not fight off was that ... I should never have had a home birth."

Most health authorities either dismiss or outright criticize alternative medicine as an effective practice. In 2015, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council looked at over 1,800 studies and found no support for homeopathic practices.

Professor Warwick Anderson, NHMRC's CEO, stated that those "who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness."

While the role of Demanuele's homeopathic beliefs in these deaths is clear, such beliefs in the general public should also be considered. For example, a 2015 South Australian study found that most public healthcare patients felt "resigned" about a public healthcare system that they felt had clear "problems."

A 2007 national survey also found that many Aussie adults had only moderate trust in hospitals. A similar 2006 U.S. survey saw reports of health care distrust in 20 to 80 percent of those surveyed. It comes as no surprise that most of these people also reported health ranging from fair to pair.

It makes sense that such distrust in hospitals would lead many mothers to instead turn to home birthing. A study of new Sydney-area mothers found that those who gave birth at home, while more educated, were less likely to see birth as a medical condition. Fatalities like Lovell's begin to make grim sense when most or all of those involved -- the mothers as well as the midwives -- share these views.