Bill to Regulate Midwives Debated in Missouri House

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Thursday, March 3, 2011

Midwifery, or the practice of assisting a woman with a home birth, became legal in Missouri in 2007. While many women prefer to have a home delivery for personal or religious reasons, the use of midwives in Missouri has been controversial, particularly with the state’s medical professionals. In 2008, a group of medical organizations sued to have the law overturned, but failed.

Now the state House Professional Registration and Licensing Committee is considering a bill that would require midwives to obtain a state license and collaborate with a physician. Witnesses testified for and against the bill at a committee hearing on February 16. Proponents of the bill said it closes a loophole that allows midwives to practice without a license, but midwives and their supporters contended that the bill would make their work practically impossible.

According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the bill would require midwives to get licensed by the state, and to have a “collaborative agreement” with a practicing physician. The latter provision turned out to be the most controversial part of the bill at the hearing. Opponents said that few doctors would agree to sign an agreement with a midwife, which would effectively prevent most midwives from practicing. But Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, who is a doctor, said the agreement requirement was “the heart of the bill.”

Witnesses testifying in support of the bill said that it made sense for people involved in the birth of an infant to be licensed, given that nearly all other medical-related professionals, such as doctors, chiropractors and acupuncturists, already have that requirement. But midwives at the hearing said that licensing would require them to buy medical malpractice insurance, which they said was unnecessarily costly.

Another representative, Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, testified on behalf of Missouri’s Amish and Mennonite communities. He and some other committee members said that an exception should be written into the bill for midwives practicing in those communities, though no one was sure if that was legally feasible, the Post-Dispatch story said.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Midwives push back against government regulations, licensure,” Rebecca Berg, February 16, 2011

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