Monterey – Two midwives from the Monterey Birth & Wellness Center in Monterey have been named in a complaint before the Medical Board of California Department of Consumer Affairs.
Caroline Cusenza and Jacqueline Little, both licensed midwives, are two of three principals at the Birth & Wellness Center which opened in late 2017, and are named in the complaint.
According to documents filed by Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California, Department of Consumer Affairs, both midwives are accused of three counts of incompetence/negligence and one count of failure to provide a physician referral.
“The investigation has been completed and found evidence of violation of the medical practice act and has been turned over to the Attorney General’s office,” said Carlos Villatoro, public information officer for the Medical Board of California.
The accusation document was filed on July 11.
“What happens now is the midwives have 15 days to respond, request a hearing or file a notice of defense with the Attorney General and Medical Board,” said Villatoro. “If they waive the right of hearing, the board may proceed with actions.”
Morgan Callahan, counsel for Cusenza and Little, said her clients have responded to the allegations, are opposing the charges and filing a Notice of Defense.
“This is in the beginning stages,” said Callahan.
The Medical Board is represented by the Attorney General’s office. Callahan will meet with the opposing counsel, report back to her clients and determine the best way to proceed.
The complaint stems from a birth with complications that occurred during delivery at the complainant’s home in early June. Paramedics had to be called, the baby was transported to a trauma center, then to UC San Francisco, but died days later.
“There are risks in a home birth just like there are giving birth in a hospital. But what you need to appreciate is that home birth patients are carefully screened to ensure they are low-risk, which is exactly what happened here. Ms. Cusenza and Ms. Little made sure that the patient was made aware of these risks before deciding to give birth in her home, and the patient gave her consent to have a home birth. As soon as the situation warranted it, the patient and her baby were timely transferred to a hospital. There was no neglect of either the patient or her baby, in any sense,” said Callahan.
The person who filed the complaints, known only as patient A in the documents, has prompted the Medical Board to consider having the two midwives’ licenses revoked or suspended.
A deputy attorney general drafts formal charges – the accusations – and a hearing may be scheduled. During prehearing conferences, a stipulated settlement – plea bargain – of the charges/penalties may be accepted by both sides; if this occurs, no hearing is needed.
If the licensees contest the charges, the case is heard by an Administrative Law Judge who then drafts a proposed decision. The proposed decision is reviewed by a panel of the Board who have the option to adopt the decision as proposed, reduce the penalty and adopt the decision, or increase the penalty and adopt the decision. In this instance, the panel members must read the entire record of the hearing prior to acting. The licensees are given the opportunity to submit written and oral arguments.
Licensees may petition the Board for reconsideration of a decision up to 30 days after it is adopted.
Cusenza, Little and Heather Schwarz (who was not named in the document) opened the Monterey Birth & Wellness Center in December 2017 offering midwifery care, childbirth and parent education, functional medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy, prenatal yoga, cranial sacral, and birth hypnosis.
The licensed midwives have 30 years of experience between them and have assisted in bringing about 1,000 baby’s births.
Cusenza is licensed by the Medical Board of California and certified by the North American Registry of Midwives. She graduated from the National Midwifery Institute in 2013 and received her clinical training during a seven-year apprenticeship with her midwife and mentor.
Little is a University of Maryland graduate – Summa Cum Laude – who has assisted in managing a birth center in Los Angeles and has also taught Childbirth Education classes. She received her California Midwifery license and Certified Midwifery license in 2012.
Schwarz is a certified birth doula – a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth – from the Seattle Midwifery School (now Bastyr College). She worked as a birth doula for many years and graduated from the National Midwifery Institute, becoming a certified professional and California licensed midwife in 2013.
James Herrera can be reached at 831-726-4344.
Two Monterey County midwives accused of incompetence/negligence in death of baby