MAWS Response to the Petition Entitled “Corrective Action Needed By the Washington State Department of Health”
Dear members and friends of MAWS,
The above named petition has received a good deal of attention since it was drafted. Some of that discussion has been undertaken without a full understanding of the issues raised by the DOH complaint and this petition in response. MAWS members have correctly sought information and clarification from their professional organization.
MAWS does not support the petition at this time. What follows is the rationale for this decision, as well as actions MAWS is undertaking to support its membership regarding the questions and concerns that the petition has raised.
MAWS recognizes, and Department of Health (DOH) data confirms, that the majority of complaints filed against midwives are spurious and result in no action taken. These complaints stem from a lack of respect for and understanding of the services midwives provide, our training, and our commitment to excellent care and safety for the families we serve. We empathize with all midwives who have had such complaints and recognize the personal distress, grief, and professional and financial losses they can cause. MAWS is committed to supporting our member colleagues who find themselves engaged in legal and administrative processes. At the same time, we recognize the integral role of the DOH in safeguarding the public, and understand that complaints brought, spurious or not, warrant investigation to ensure public safety. MAWS supports what we believe to be fair legislative and administrative processes that ultimately result in a stronger collective profession and safe access to midwifery care for consumers.
We all strive for safe, professional practice that serves both the autonomy of midwifery care providers and desires of clients, and we recognize that our choice of birth attendants impacts our ability to safely provide care. Our profession has a long history of mentorship and apprenticeship, and we support the selection of other qualified health professionals, such as Licensed Midwives (LMs), as mentors to less experienced midwives and as birth assistants. In fact, this choice reflects what we believe to be one of the most responsible models for community birth safety. We further recognize the challenges that can at times face rural midwives and/or solo practice midwives in finding qualified birth assistants, and the imperative for the Midwifery Advisory Committee (MAC) along with the DOH to clarify the qualifications and roles of birth assistants. This clarification is currently in process. All LMs must recognize, when choosing birth attendants or choosing to assist at births, that we are held accountable to the level of our license, expertise, and experience -- regardless of the role we are there to play. This is a liability and a privilege afforded to all in professional practice and healthcare professions.
In regard to the petition itself, upon close reading and reflection, we find that the wording is ambiguous, the statements made do not consistently stand up to scrutiny, and we lack the clarity necessary to support and sign the petition. To be clear, it is the petition itself we find ourselves unable to support in good faith, not any of the individual midwives involved. This is not a condemnation of the midwife under investigation or of those who chose to sign, and MAWS remains steadfastly in support of the midwives involved in their pursuit of fair, transparent, and equitable administrative and legal processes. We are poised to assist said midwives in navigating the DOH complaint process or any additional legal processes that arise, a service we are committed to providing to all MAWS members.
All of that said, we recognize that the petition, and its ensuing conversation, warrant further discussion and action from MAWS to meet the needs of our members. As such, and in keeping with the MAWS mission statement “[t]o promote reproductive health and well-being through the promotion and support of the profession of midwifery,” the following are the actions MAWS is currently undertaking to continue to support our professional growth and development:
MAWS is and remains committed to providing its membership with unbiased, accurate information, education, and support. With any issue that has the potential to deepen the fractures within our midwifery community, we seek instead to create an opportunity for civic engagement and professional development. If you have any remaining questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to sharing the results of our efforts listed above as soon as possible.
Signed on February 11, 2019, unanimously, by the Midwives’ Association of Washington State Board of Directors
Neva Gerke, LM, MSM, MAWS President and Chair, MAWS Legislative & Policy Committee
Kat Potthoff, LM, CPM, MAWS Vice President
Tiffani Hoffman, LM, CPM, MAWS Secretary
Elizabeth Arcese, MA, LM, CPM, MAWS Treasurer
Amelia Bowler, MAWS Office Manager
Melanie Dickson, LM, CPM, Chair, Quality Management Program
Claire Catania, Midwifery Consumer
Felicia Dunbar, MSM, LM, CPM
Kristin Eggleston, LM, CPM
Mariah Falin, Consumer Representative
Deborah Gleisner, ND, LM, MAWS Birth Center Representative
Charlee Haller, Student Representative
Sunita Iyer, ND, LM
Cynthia Jaffe, LM
Sara Lillie-Lugo, Student Representative
Juniper Moon, MSM, LM, CPM
Susan Rainwater, MSW, Midwifery Consumer
Jennifer Segadelli, JD, MSM
Brittany Seidel, MSM, Consumer Representative
Lisa Stotts, MSM, LM, CPM
Chelsey Swan, Consumer Representative
Jessica Swan, MSM, LM, CPM
Christine Tindal, LM, CPM, MSM, Peer Review Coordinator
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Banner photo used with permission.