Midwife gets plea deal in Alexandria infants death


A Baltimore midwife has pled guilty to two felony charges in connection with the death of a local baby during a home delivery in September.

Karen Carr, 44, faced multiple charges, including manslaughter, heading into the trial. Prosecutors dropped all but cruelty and injuries to children charges and performing an invasive procedure without a license, as part of a plea agreement. 

Officials sentenced Carr to four years in prison but suspended most of it, meaning Carr will ultimately serve five days in jail. She was fined $5,000 and is barred from practicing midwifery in Virginia or seeking a license a do so in the next four years. 

The biggest win for the Commonwealths Attorneys Office and I suppose what we were most satisfied with was her acknowledgement of negligence in this event, said prosecutor Krista Boucher.

Carr undertook the home delivery at the behest of the childs parents, according to court documents. The mother and father had previously received prenatal care from BirthCare, a local birthing center, but sought out Carr when they decided against a home delivery, due to the babys breech position in the womb. 

A breech position, of which there are variants, is generally defined as when the baby fails to turn head-down during the course of the pregnancy. While a natural birth remains possible, many new mothers opt for a caesarian section.   

Carr presented herself as an expert in difficult births, Boucher said. She was not a licensed midwife in Virginia, though court records show she had performed more than 1,200 home births during her career.

But during the September 11 delivery, the babys head became lodged. Between 15 and 20 minutes passed as the childs head was stuck. He was born without a heartbeat, court documents say. 

Carr performed CPR before eventually asking someone else to call for medical help. The baby was transported to Inova Hospital and died two days later at Childrens National Medical Center, according to court documents. 

Hospital officials alerted local law enforcement, Boucher said. After interviewing witnesses and receiving cooperation from the parents, they moved ahead with the charges, she said. 

We prosecute criminal behavior, Boucher said. The defendant in this case demonstrated a degree of negligence that was criminal and thats why we charged the case to begin with There were a number of events in this delivery that when you added them all together, her actions were clearly criminal and thats why charged the case.

Prosecutors dropped the other charges against Carr out of respect for the family, Boucher said. 

Carrs indictment set off shockwaves in the home birthing community. Within days a Facebook page had sprung up soliciting donations for her legal defense. The page now has more than 1,400 likes and is awash in posts supporting her record, some very personal accounts of her prior work.

Nicole Jolley, the midwife behind the defense fund, said the case has been devastating to the community. Midwives will think twice before taking on potentially complicated births, she said, calling the charges against Carr inflated.

The medical community is not held in the same standard [as midwives], Jolley said. People assume, based on a lack of information and awareness, that when you are in the hospital everything that could have been done has been done. There is a blind faith. 

Theyve raised $45,000 so far and hope to reach $150,000 before the end of the year. The money isnt slated for Carr alone, but midwives facing legal scrutiny across the country, she said. 

Our goal is to really provide resources to those midwives and help to unite the community and make a clear and concise voice for people who are interested in having a homebirth and making sure it stays an option, Jolley said.