Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed charges on Friday against a midwife whose actions he said were so “reckless” during a birth in Sequoyah County that the mother and baby are “lucky to be alive.”
Prosecutors allege that Debbie Disch, who promotes herself on her website as a certified midwife serving Fort Smith and the adjacent eastern Oklahoma area, did not have a medical license when she performed an episiotomy on a patient in late May, nor a valid prescription for the Pitocin she injected into the patient.
Disch was permanently banned from obtaining a license to practice as a midwife in Arkansas in 2016, according to the release, and though Oklahoma has no laws regulating midwives, only those with a medical license may legally perform an episiotomy and administer Pitocin, which induces labor.
Both the mother and baby in question were hospitalized for three days after the event, and in a news release, Hunter called the details of the case “disturbing.”
The woman arrived at Disch’s Babies Choice Childbirth Center, 113 E. Ray Fine Blvd. in Roland, on May 25 after having been in labor at home for about 32 hours, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Despite the woman’s water breaking the next afternoon, family members began to worry when no progress was made.
One family member, a registered nurse, asked Disch to take the woman’s vitals, and Disch “got in (her) face, “yelling that she had 36 years of experience,” the affidavit alleges.
Family members tried several times to get the woman to go to a hospital, but Disch reassured them “that everything was fine, that it was normal, and that she was not concerned,” it says.
While the woman was in one birthing position, Disch pressed down with her hands and weight on the woman’s abdomen while family members pulled on a rope the woman was holding, causing “a great deal of pain,” the document says.
Disch had the woman and her husband move to a chair, and Disch told the woman “she had to do perform an episiotomy and that she has never done one before,” the affidavit states.
The woman told investigators she heard three snips and that the baby was born, but he was blue and not breathing.
Witnesses told investigators Disch dropped the baby while performing CPR, the affidavit states.
After the baby began to breathe, Disch said she didn’t have any clean tools to cut the umbilical cord, the affidavit states.
Disch had the woman stand, and blood “gushed to the floor,” prompting Disch to move her to a bed and administer two shots in each of her legs, the affidavit alleges.
An ambulance was called for the woman after “much encouragement from the family,” the affidavit states, but Disch still insisted emergency medical services were not needed and that they could drive to the hospital.
Disch then ordered her assistant to “get things cleaned up,” handing her a bucket full of the woman’s blood and saying, “We need to get this out of here now,” the affidavit states.
The woman told investigators that Disch “was much more worried about cleaning up than she was about my life.”
When paramedics arrived, Disch was unable to provide the woman’s vitals and an IV was hooked up to the woman but the valve was turned off so she wasn’t getting any fluids, a paramedic told investigators, according to the affidavit.
The woman had to have surgery at the hospital and was anemic, the affidavit states.
Investigators searched Disch’s childbirth center Sept. 4 and found five vials of Pitocin along with other medical and surgical equipment, the affidavit states.
Disch told investigators in an interview that she conducted an episiotomy to deliver the child and said she gave the woman two injections of Pitocin to help with the bleeding.
Disch does not hold any medical license issued by the state of Oklahoma, and though she used to have an Arkansas RN license, it expired in 2017, according to the affidavit.
She has had an outstanding warrant in Scott County, Arkansas, for practicing without a midwife license since 2016, the affidavit states.
A warrant has been issued for her arrest, according to the release.
“We hope these charges send the message to Oklahomans looking to hire a midwife to research and choose carefully,” Hunter said in the release. “Given her troubled past in Oklahoma and Arkansas, we also hope this puts Disch out of business.”