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Concerns Linger Over Midwives Law

After two years of unsuccessfully putting into practice a law regulating midwives, the General Assembly enacted a follow-up bill aimed at finally making the system work.

Legislators crafted a law in 2013 to regulate midwives, including the requirement that, to legally practice, midwives must have a signed, written collaborative agreement with a doctor.  But the Professional Licensing Board – charged with fully developing midwife regulations – couldn't find a doctor willing to sign an agreement, and gave up creating the midwifery license.

This year's version of the bill provides physicians and their employers with immunity from liability if they enter into the agreements.  Oldenburg Republican Senator Jean Leising, a retired nurse, says even though some may have concerns about the practice, failing to pass any law would have left midwifery entirely unregulated.

"There's a small percentage of women in our state that will choose to have their children at home, they will choose to have a midwife, and I believe we should make sure that they have the ability to have a physician as backup," Leising says.

But Fort Wayne Republican Senator Liz Brown says providing immunity to doctors and hospitals makes a bad situation worse.

"We are now absolving any doctor who has seen these women in nine months, any hospital who has allowed their physicians to see them … they're sharing records, they review their charts and everything but if something goes wrong, we're saying ‘That's too bad; only the midwives are going to be held responsible,'" Brown says.

The Professional Licensing Board will still have to develop a final set of rules for midwife licensing, which it's expected to do in the coming months.

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