Midwife accused of manslaughter: 'Justice can be done'

COQUILLE, Ore. (AP) — A Bandon midwife who helped deliver a baby who died a few days after birth pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

The defense attorney for Marcene Rebeck said that her client did nothing wrong. The defense alleges Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier presented an incomplete picture to the grand jurors who handed down an indictment.

"Our job will be to paint the full picture so that justice can be done," Laura Fine said.

The unlicensed midwife has delivered more than 300 babies in 30 years, The World newspaper of Coos Bay reported, and she can continue to practice as she awaits future court dates.

Outside the courtroom Monday, roughly 75 supporters chanted the midwife's name while carrying signs that read, "Home birth is legal" and "Our community loves Marcene."

Young children wore signs that read, "I'm a Rebeck baby."

"'We love her and trust her; these charges are completely unjust," said Nicole Kraynik, whose children were delivered by Rebeck.

The case against Rebeck stems from the death of a baby girl who died from septic shock on June 18, 2011.

Frasier said Rebeck provided "substandard" care after the baby was born, and the girl would have survived if the midwife had recommended prompt medical attention. He said eight medical consultants, including five midwives, were consulted and they drew the same conclusion after studying written and video records of the birth.

In court papers, Frasier said Rebeck advised Bethany Reed and Arkus Rodriguez that their daughter did not need medical attention despite multiple indications that something was wrong.

Rebeck reported in handwritten notes that the baby, two minutes after birth, had "no heart rate, very limp, very pale gray, without muscle tone, vigorously rubbed and did percussions -- cord very short." Moreover, the girl had no rooting reflex, a reflex babies have to seek their mother's breast milk.

Three days later, the worried parents took the newborn to a local hospital, where it was determined she was in septic shock. The baby was transported to a Springfield hospital, where she died the following day.

Coos County Medical Examiner Kris Karcher investigated the death and noted "several deficiencies in the care the baby received," Frasier said.

Karcher consulted local doctors and experts from the nurse-midwifery program at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Frasier said all agreed the baby would have survived had medical intervention been sought immediately after birth.

In her report, Karcher said Rebeck's "lack of recognition or disregard for the need of medical intervention" makes her a "dangerous practitioner, and it is only a matter of time before another bad outcome will occur."

Some supporters of the midwife used the term "witch hunt" to describe the DA's decision to pursue charges.

Frasier said he understands the outpouring of support for Rebeck, but he denies their claims that he opposes midwifery.

"There will be times when I have to make a decision that will be unpopular, and this is one of those cases," he said.

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Information from: The World, http://www.theworldlink.com