Veteran Saskatoon doula 1st person convicted of breaching Sask. Midwifery Act

Saskatoon doula Lisa Kusch pleaded guilty Wednesday to breaching provisions in the Sask. Midwifery Act.

Lisa Kusch admitted to going beyond what doula is authorized to do

Saskatoon doula Lisa Kusch pleaded guilty Wednesday to breaching provisions in the Sask. Midwifery Act. (Submitted)

A veteran Saskatoon doula is the first person convicted of a charge under the province's Midwifery Act.

A doula is a person trained to offer support during childbirth. Unlike midwives, however, they are not allowed to medically intervene.

But that is what Lisa Kusch admitted she did during a difficult home birth four years ago. She pleaded guilty in Saskatoon Provincial Court Wednesday to a single charge of breaching the legislation. She was fined $4,000, the maximum amount under the law.

Kusch made 'deliberate choice'

In an interview, Kusch said she did what she had to do under the circumstances. In this case, it involved a vaginal manipulation to help get the baby out.

"This birth was, by all accounts, a long birth. It was over 50 hours in length and was complicated. It was the birth that no woman wishes for. In any difficult birth, our role as doulas is to provide physical and emotional support and encouragement to the mother," she said.

Kusch still trains doulas but no longer attends births because injuries from a car accident made helping with the births too physically demanding. She assisted in more than 500 births over eighteen years.

The young mother was eventually taken to Royal University Hospital and delivered her baby by caesarian section.

Prosecutor says mother traumatized

Prosecutor Tamara Rock says the mother was traumatized by the entire experience.

A dental assistant can't do what a dentist does.- Cheryl Olson, College of Midwives executive director

"She finally was transferred to hospital and it resulted in a medical procedure she had hoped not to have to go through," Rock said.

"I know she was trying to find for herself the best birth experience possible within her faith and for the health of herself and her baby, and it ended up going horribly wrong."

The Saskatchewan Midwifery Act came into effect in 2008. There is now a College of Midwives and a set of regulations governing conduct.

Long waiting list for midwives in Sask.

Cheryl Olson is executive director of the college. She said everything about the case is troubling.

"If you want to be a midwife then you need to go to school and get licensed and become a midwife," she said.

"If you're a doula, this is your role, this is what you can do."

There are currently 15 registered midwives in Saskatchewan, six in the Saskatoon area. Olson said there is a significant waiting list for their services.

But she said that doesn't mean a doula should offer services as a sort of default midwife.

"If you're a licensed practical nurse, there are some things you can't do that a registered nurse can do. It's authorized practice," she said.

"It's all over the place. A dental assistant can't do what a dentist does."

About the Author

Dan Zakreski

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.