ST. GEORGE — A lawyer for a midwife accused of manslaughter in the death of a premature infant nearly four years ago said a snowstorm that delayed an ambulance trip to the hospital was to blame for the tragedy.
Defense attorney Douglas Terry made the assertion Wednesday during opening statements at the trial of Vickie Dawn Sorenson in St. George, The Spectrum newspaper reported.
Sorenson, 56, of Cedar City, is accused of refusing to take a woman who was pregnant with twins to a hospital when she went into labor two months early in December 2012.
Prosecutors say Sorenson initiated the first child's delivery at her birth center without the proper skills or equipment.
One of the twins died. The mother eventually was taken to a hospital, where the second baby was born.
"Because they had the equipment and training they needed, (the second baby) survived," prosecutor Mike Edwards said.
Sorenson is charged with manslaughter, a second-degree felony, and two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment. If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison.
Medical authorities told investigators the first baby died as a result of Sorensen's negligence and her attempt to deliver the twins was "out of the skill set of some OB/GYN physicians, let alone a lay midwife," according to court documents.
Edwards said Sorensen told medical personnel who arrived in an ambulance that she didn't know how premature the child was, the time of birth or the medical history.
She also failed to tell them the mother was still in labor with the second child, Edwards said. He said the mother made her way outside to the ambulance barefoot, bleeding and with the umbilical cord attached in hopes that they could transport her to the hospital.
Terry said Sorenson made every effort to delay the birth until they could get the mother to the hospital. He said it wasn't Sorenson's actions but the terrible winter weather that resulted in the delay.
"This is a tragic event," Terry said. "All efforts were made to stop that birth until they could get her to a hospital. … That's why that lousy snowy day was the factor."