Malpractice Insurance

When looking for a safe care provider for your birth, it is very important to find one that carries malpractice insurance.

Many home birth midwives do not carry malpractice insurance, reassuring their clients that they don't need it because "malpractice insurance only protects doctors so that they can keep practicing when they do something wrong."

In truth, malpractice insurance does not protect health care providers who make mistakes. It protects the families who the health care provider injures. Birth injuries in particular can be very costly and require expensive life-long care. If a family chooses a health care provider who carries malpractice insurance, and something goes wrong because of the health care provider, malpractice insurance will allow the family to be able to get the money they need to take care of the injury. If it's a hospital-based doctor or midwife who made the mistake, malpractice insurance will not protect them from the professional repercussions of their actions. Hospital-based care providers are overseen by boards of professionals who thoroughly review their actions; malpractice insurance doesn't protect them in any way from losing their hospital privileges or their license.

On the other hand, if a family chooses a birth center or home birth midwife who does not carry malpractice insurance, and something goes wrong that the midwife should have prevented, the family will have no venues for financial compensation. They will have to pay for the (potentially life-long) costs of the injury themselves. And the home birth midwife will have no professional repercussions, as she has nothing to stop her from taking on new clients without telling them of her past negative outcomes.

Many home birth midwives without malpractice insurance cannot be sued if they have a negative outcome, because very few lawyers will take on a lawsuit against them if they don't carry malpractice insurance. There just isn't enough money in the midwife's bank account to make the lawsuit worth it to the lawyer. And if a lawsuit is successfully brought and won against them, they can just declare bankruptcy, use a new name and continue practicing. One birth center in Michigan did just that.

In a report comparing different state midwifery laws, "Do State Midwifery Laws Matter?", the data shows that requiring midwives to carry malpractice insurance cut the rate of newborn deaths in half. Women and children benefit from midwives carrying malpractice insurance - and they benefit a lot.

If your midwife does not carry insurance because the cost will cut into her profits, she has weighed the pros and cons of not carrying malpractice insurance, and decided that the benefits to her outweigh the risks to you.