The Oregon board that governs midwives wants to revoke the licenses of and issue thousands of dollars in fines against two former Bend midwives it says failed to properly assess risk factors in a birth that resulted in the child’s cerebral palsy.
The Board of Direct Entry Midwifery says Christyn King and Nicole Tucker violated six current and former Oregon statutes in an April 2010 birth. The board says they failed to assess and take action on the risk the mother’s high blood pressure posed to the birth and failed to plan the hospital birth the law requires for patients with such a risk factor.
The board says the women broke the law by also failing to disclose their lack of malpractice insurance to the client.
Both women are contesting the findings.
The mother in this case is Kristine Andrews, of Bend. Her story was highlighted in a 2013 Pulse magazine article.
As Andrews neared her due date, her blood pressure reached as high as 145/100, according to board records, which is within the levels used by doctors to diagnose a condition called preeclampsia, which can lead to fatal complications for mothers and their babies. Normal blood pressure is at or below 120/80.
A doctor later told Andrews that her son, Abel Andrews, was born deprived of oxygen, resulting in the brain damage that led to his cerebral palsy.
Kristine Andrews, now 35, filed a lawsuit against the midwives and the state in 2012. The case against the state was dismissed, but Andrews said she’s still in arbitration with the midwives. Andrews said neither King nor Tucker told her high blood pressure put her birth at risk. To bring it down, they told her to eat cucumbers, drink water and go for walks.
Toward the end of her pregnancy, Andrews she said grew concerned and asked the midwives if she should consult an OB-GYN she had seen previously.
“They were like, ‘Oh, no, no, no,’” she said. “‘You just need to eat your cucumbers and this is fine, and we’ll let you know way in advance of any kind of emergency.’ So it was all very downplayed, and I don’t think they were concerned.”
Reached by phone on Monday, Tucker said the board relied on faulty documentation to arrive at its charges and that the charges are out of retaliation that the state was included as a co-defendant on Andrews’ lawsuit. The state ultimately was granted immunity in the lawsuit.
“This is more of them trying to get their distance,” she said.
Sarah Kelber, a spokeswoman for Oregon’s Health Licensing Office, which oversees the midwifery board, said her office initiated its investigation into King and Tucker in April 2012 but put it on hold until Andrews’ lawsuit was closed. Once the investigation was over, it brought its results to the board in August 2014. The board issued its proposed action against King and Tucker in October 2014. Hearings have not yet been scheduled, and it’s unclear how long the case will take.
King’s Oregon license has been expired for more than three years. Tucker’s became inactive in October 2013.
In addition to revoking their licenses, the board is proposing civil penalties of $5,000 against both King and Tucker in addition to up to $5,000 toward the cost of the disciplinary proceedings against them.
The board disciplined Tucker in 2013 for failing to document another patient’s transport to the hospital and for failing to disclose the fact that her facility, the now-defunct Motherwise Birthing Center, did not carry malpractice insurance. She was fined $1,250. King was also disciplined for failing to disclose her lack of insurance and fined $1,000.
Tucker, who worked as a lactation consultant after Motherwise closed, said she’s not currently providing any kind of health care.
King, who did not return a call seeking comment, currently provides craniosacral therapy, an alternative therapy billed as a way to relieve pain and pressure in the body, in Williston, Vermont. Although she’s licensed as a midwife in that state, her biography on the website of the yoga studio where she practices said she’s not currently working with births.
Andrews — whose son, Abel, is now 4 years old — said it’s strange that the board never contacted her during its investigation. Kelber could not say why that was.
Andrews said she’s also frustrated the fines would go to the board and not to her family. She said Abel’s monthly expenses could easily exceed $5,000. And the midwives won’t be required to provide so much as an apology to her family, which Andrews said they have never done.
“But I’m glad that a message is being sent to them and to other midwives that this is something that we’re starting to take seriously in Oregon, and that this is what happens when you do this,” Andrews said. “Hopefully they will start being more careful, and hopefully it can protect other families.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0304,