Australia

Midwives charged with negligent manslaughter over home birth death

Two midwives have been charged with manslaughter by negligence over the death of a Melbourne mother following a home birth in 2012.

Caroline Lovell, 36, died after giving birth at her Watsonia home on January 24, 2012.

The two midwives who oversaw her birth, Gaye Demanuele and Melody Bourne, were on Friday charged by the Victoria Police homicide squad with manslaughter by criminal negligence.

Caroline Lovell died following a home birth in 2012.

Caroline Lovell died following a home birth in 2012.Credit:Penny Stephens

For this form of manslaughter, prosecutors must prove the accused owed the victim a duty of care and breached it negligently, both consciously and voluntarily.

Ms Demanuele, 59, was arrested in Preston on Friday morning. Police arrested Ms Bourne, 43, in Mullumbimby in NSW.

Gaye Demanuele.

Gaye Demanuele.

Both women have been bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on August 21.

Coroner Peter White found in 2016 that Ms Lovell was left to bleed out in a birthing pool in her home, where she remained for about an hour in a dark room after delivering her baby.

The coroner said Ms Lovell's blood loss and blood pressure was not monitored effectively.

When she got out of the pool, she fell unconscious.

Caroline Lovell, who had two children, worked as a photographer and massage therapist.

Caroline Lovell, who had two children, worked as a photographer and massage therapist.

Ms Lovell begged for an ambulance to be called, the coroner said, but the triple 0 call wasn't placed for at least 10 minutes when Ms Lovell went into further collapse.

Her baby survived. Ms Lovell, who had two children, worked as a massage therapist and a photographer for the Leader newspapers.

Ms Demanuele, who at the time had been a registered midwife for six years and a registered nurse for 21 years, was the senior of the two midwives.

She surrendered her midwifery registration months later and began working in private practice as a home-birth advocate.

Ms Bourne, who the coroner said no longer works as a midwife, had never worked in a hospital setting before.

In a 2013 article for the Freedom Social Party, Ms Demanuele wrote women's human rights were violated "by a system that treats them as incubators ... A system that uses 'the best interest of the child' as a weapon; that deems women incapable of making 'good choices' in order to police them".

Ms Lovell's death led to a series of recommendations from the coroner including the development of a regulatory framework for private midwives who conduct home births.

Last year, a former midwife from Adelaide was found not guilty of manslaughter over the death of two babies in home births in 2011 and 2012.

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