Midwife charged

By Anna Rushworth

A mother has told a medical disciplinary tribunal of her desperate journey to hospital carrying her stillborn son inside her.

The woman, who cannot be identified, said she realised something was wrong when the baby stopped moving almost three weeks after her due date.

When her midwife Monique Kapua, who faces a charge of professional misconduct, couldn't find a heartbeat, she sent the woman to hospital.

"I knew by then my baby was dead and that there was no hope because there was no heartbeat and because we were to travel by car, not helicopter," she said. "I was totally devastated."

Once in hospital a doctor performed an ultrasound scan. "No heartbeat or movement could be detected," the woman told the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in Auckland last week.

Her labour was induced and Felix was delivered stillborn.
The misconduct charge was laid against Kapua after the Far North couple, whose names, address and occupations have been suppressed, complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

It covers allegations Felix was stillborn after the pregnancy was allowed to run 21 days overdue and Kapua went on unexpected leave.

The couple said Kapua told them she was going to Auckland for the birth of her grandchild and told them how to handle the birth themselves because she would be a five-hour drive away.

Kapua, a midwife for a charitable trust mandated by five Northland iwi, has denied the allegations and said she tried to respect the parents' requests about their care.

The hearing was held in a conference room at an Auckland hotel where Kapua was surrounded by members of her whanau.

She unsuccessfully tried to block a Herald on Sunday application to photograph her, saying she was organising coverage through Maori TV.

The tribunal was told the Pakeha couple wanted a traditional home birth involving holistic Maori customs.

They said Kapua did not keep records during the 43-week pregnancy and carried out only two blood pressure readings.

The estimated due date was September 5, but the woman realised something was wrong on September 26 when the baby stopped moving.

The couple declined an autopsy on Felix, taking the hospital obstetrician's advice that because he was perfectly formed it could be implied the length of the pregnancy had led to his death.

The mother said she felt "foolish" for not questioning Kapua's methods.

"Monique told me that if I was feeling healthy and looking healthy then the baby was going to be healthy and there was no need to undertake any tests or screening. I feel very foolish to have believed Monique, but at the time she seemed so intuitive and right."

Kapua said she used "sacred and precious birthing practices" passed down through her iwi.

She denied the allegations and said she respected the mother's request that no records be kept. "However, I now feel that was an error in judgment."

She said the woman "declined any clinical intervention and was keen to wait, wanting a natural approach".

The case has been adjourned until later this month.

- Herald on Sunday

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