SUPPORT FOR SUE ROSE, Independent Midwife in Britain

Midwife under attack

The British press is having a field day with a story about a home birth that resulted in a girl having a paralyzed arm. The shoddy, one-sided press story is the classic tale of “money hungry midwife did disgustingly bad job and mother and/or baby is maimed”. We’ve seen it many times in North America and around the world. These stories sell newspapers. The general public sips their morning coffee and reads a titillating account of the dangers of trusting a homebirth midwife. Young women reading it do not see midwifery as a career that they would pursue and hospital birth reigns as the “default” best choice for a horrified public.

Meanwhile, on the private online midwifery discussions, some will point out that there is only one side to the story and call for calmer heads but those comments will remain largely closeted for fear that the commenter will be tarnished by the witch hunt.

The consumer message boards light up with cries of anguish from sympathetic onlookers who think they know something about the inside workings of the obstetric system.

This is the weak link in making home birth available to larger numbers of women and it must be addressed. No midwife can guarantee a smooth birth every time. Midwives are vulnerable to attack and relatively unsophisticated in the ways of running their governing bodies. Of course, no one wants to see a mother and/or baby hurt from the birth process. Reacting to such an incident by punishing the practitioner with professional capital punishment is highly destructive to women’s choices. Why do I say “capital punishment”? Because, in most Western countries, once you have been stripped of your license in one profession, it is impossible to then be accepted by any other professional body. This is why you will see decisions made in the case of physicians that seem very lacking in punishment. A doctor who has demonstrated repeated sexual misconduct, for instance, will be sent for a weekend of retraining. He goes back to work as usual. One of the most famous cases of this “professional forgiving of a doctor” involved a surgeon in N. Y. who carved his initials into a woman’s belly while doing a cesarean. His professional buddies didn’t stop him for long

Not so with midwives; for the smallest error they are delicensed even though they have served women for 30 years as in the case of Sue Rose. (Internet bio: “Health care worker for 30 years and practising, independent midwife for over 15 years based in Brighton”.) She is maligned because she did not defend herself in her midwifery hearing. I can understand her not defending herself. The results of these hearings are pretty much a foregone conclusion and every word the midwife says is twisted and turned and used against her. After a few forays into the legal trap, the smart midwife keeps her mouth shut and lets the chips fall where they may. Eventually the whole drama blows over and the jackals simmer down.

What is left in the wake of these press debacles?

-midwives afraid of their clients
-clients afraid of home birth and midwives
-deals made with insurance companies for “protection” which involve restrictions on practice
-paranoia in the natural birth movement

Now, ask yourself, “Who benefits?”


One day, the home birth movement will reach a level of sophistication where there is a plan in place for diffusing these attacks long before they happen. It may come from a large organization like MANA, ICAN or Lamaze but we will see an instant supportive response for midwives and home birth when these press slanderings begin. There will be an understanding throughout the movement that we need to stand together in times of breakdown, just as the physicians and other professional groups have learned to do. We will wake up to the basic tenet that everyone is innocent until proven guilty IN A COURT OF LAW. . . not some professional tribunal. Most professional tribunals do not have a clue about jurisprudence and basic legal fairness. We will understand that “no comment” is a perfectly appropriate response when a professional midwife is required to maintain client confidentiality plus protect her own family. Professionals and consumers who want home birth to be available will begin saying the only decent thing when news breaks about a death or injury at a home birth: “I don’t know, I wasn’t there, I’m sure the midwife did everything she could.”

When we get to that place as a movement, we’ll see the percentage of home births skyrocket and we’ll see more young women choosing home birth midwifery as a career path. There’s a saying by Angela Davis, the American civil rights activist, that applies to the current vulnerable state of independent midwives: “if they come for me in the morning, they’ll be back for you in the afternoon.

18 thoughts on “SUPPORT FOR SUE ROSE, Independent Midwife in Britain

  1. I know nothing about the situation, therefore I cannot comment. I think those words should be said so much more than they are. ( or if my grandmother was around,she would say “mind your own business, and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”)

    Wouldn’t it be nice, if instead of always looking for a scape goat when things go wrong, we could accept that despite our best intentions, and doing the very best we can, sometimes we can’t fix everything.( and neither can anyone else!)

    Interesting how if a doctor breaks a babies arm or causes brain damage with forceps, or any other number of injuries, during birth, “He was doing what he had too, baby would never have made it out without him… etc. ” and he becomes the hero. However if a midwife has a poor outcome, we are hippy witches who have to come into the 21st century and stop being so backwards.

    I expect that statistically, ( and I am sure you have the numbers somewhere to back this up 🙂 ) that in the same number of low risk clients, with similar complications, midwifery care has far less injuries and deaths.

    Thank you for sharing this, it is important to see the bigger picture.

  2. I also have been horrified at the way the press have reported the case of Sue Rose Independant Midwife.
    Having had 3 homebirths (1 transfer to hospital) and 1 homebirth with an independant midwife, they are worth every penny. I actually have meet Sue, as she was a friend/collegue of my midwife. Sue is a lovely, unassuming, person, and everybody I know, who has had her to help at their births have not only been pleased but delighted with this fantastic woman.
    To say Sue actually saved this baby’s life, is not an understatement and the cuts to the mother would have been the same in hospital or at home. It is the letigious society that we live in that has enabled this mother (who obviously and quite rightly was tramautised after this birth)to ruin Sue’s reputation and her means of earning a living. So that she can receive compensation for her daughter. Spare a moment and say a little prayer or quiet thought, for the mother of this child and the child involved. Then an even larger thought or prayer for Sue Rose who has had 30 years of hard work wiped away and her reputation in the midwifery field tarnished beyond belief. We shall soon be setting up a “Friends of Sue Rose” on facebook, I hope people can send her their messages of support.

  3. I’m so glad you have posted this, Sue Rose is a friend of mine who I have known for many years and I am appalled at the scare-mongery style journalism that has surrounded this story, so many of the actual facts have not even been reported in an impartial way, just from the view of the mother, who would obviously be emotional and extremely biased.

    Sue is the most, caring person I have ever known and has birthed literally hundreds of babies, here and in Canada, so to see her described in this way is awful. I hope the people that know and love her stand by her at this time of need.

  4. I only wish that the papers would report, just as strenuously, on all the women who are butchered everyday in the halls of modern obstetrics. But, wait, that’s an everyday occurrence, and mothers say, “yes, well, I had to have reconstructive surgery, but my doctor HAD to cut me because it was an emergency. And yes, babe had some nerve damage. But aren’t we lucky the doctors SAVED her life?”

  5. I’ve been offline for over a week and only read the details of this horrendous story today. I feel so terribly sad for all concerned, but especially for this midwife. I read the ignorantly reported one-sided Daily Mail story and then learned that Sue Rose subsequently didn’t attend her hearing and i could cry for her. She must feel devastated and so alone with all this. The UK homebirth movement needs to mobilise a formal body to support and protect independent midwives in this sort of situation. Women need to stand up for their midwives – we cannot expect the option of flexible one-to-one highly individualised care for pregnancy and birth and then turn our backs on the courageous women who are willing to provide it when birth doesn’t go as planned or hoped.

    What can be done, in practical terms, about this situation? Who can we write to, petition, lobby or harass? I am not a midwife, i am “just” a mother. I demand the right to choose where and with whom i birth. I am ready to stand up for that right.

  6. Message for Becky Wilson.
    Another wonderful lady, Hannah Sherlock, has set up a “friends of Sue Rose” on facebook. Please send a message of support there.
    If you dont live in Brighton look up the “The Argus” which again today has a one-sided account of this story, you can email the journalist involved and put your side of the story. Also the independent have comments ongoing about this subject. Write to your local newspaper, set up an action group. In Brighton a group of us will meet next week to see how we can move this forward in a positive way.

  7. Hello
    I forgot to say the email address for the journalist at The Argus Brighton. I urge everybody who wants to support Sue and other midwives to email their comments to this journalist. Lets see how many get printed!!!!!!!!

  8. Sue Rose is an amazing midwife who helped me have a brilliant healing birth at home in 2007,i always felt comforted and protected by her presence and would describe her as a mother to mothers.I am shocked and disgusted by the what has happend and would like to thank her for being a part of my birth to Naima at home 3 years ago.

  9. I always get so annoyed and upset when I read something like this. When will the day come when midwives are protected? I am amazed that even in Britain where midwifery has been the norm for birth for such a long time that her licensing body, professional association, union etc. wasn’t there to protect her. And if they were considering the outcome they are not doing their job. Arrgh.

  10. I’m so glad I found this site. We get the Argus as I live near Brighton and until yesterday I had only heard the “anti-independent midwife” version of events. I was still committed to supporting home births (having had one myself) and I would have had my own midwife had we been in a financial position to afford it, so I was gutted to hear the story unfold and have my own assertions brought in to question. I shall be joining the support groups and e-mailing the Argus to lend a voice to the “pro home birth – support for all midwives” side to the story. Thanks for presenting a more realistic view.

  11. I had not heard of any of this until today and am relieved not to have read the rubbish printed by the Argus. Sue is a beautiful, caring and devoted midwife who single handedly delivered my daughter at home two years ago . It was the most wonderful birth one could have asked for and Sue was completely supportive, calm and attentive.
    I am now pregnant with my second child and the first person I phoned to arrange to deliver this child. Unfortunately she had already ceased practicing (I did not know why at the time) but should she begin to again I would have no doubts in asking her to attend this birth.

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  14. In Ontario our College of Midwives has been going after all the Michener midwives, picking us off, one by one, with punitive and unfair audits and investigations. I’d really like to contact Sue about my concerns. Our voice is strong if we unite. What happened to women’s right to choose who should attend her in childbirth!

    • Sue was in Ontario and went through the Coroner’s inquest with Vicky Van Wagner that led to the regulation of midwifery. Do you remember her?

      Email me at birth(at) and I’ll give you my phone number.

  15. Sue Rose helped at my delivery in 1994. I found her very professional and knowledgeable. She was a calming presence during my fairly difficult birth. So sorry this has happened. Obviously the hospitals/government looking for every opportunity to vilify something outside their control.

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