Botched home birth midwife on the run

midwife on the runThe story sounds like something out of a thriller novel – a home birth midwife is on the run and wanted by police, according to reports in Australian Doctor.

Akal Khalsa, whose website states she is retired but will attend home births overseas, has been ordered to pay $6,606,583.00 to Will Patterson after his tutor Jodi Latter brought proceedings before the court back in 2009.

What the court documents say about the case

The documents tendered to the court say Will Patterson’s mother went into labour on the morning of 21 October 2006 at about 41 weeks gestation.

  • When Ms Khalsa arrived at about 12 noon, the labour was strong, she detected foetal heart sounds of between 140 and 158 beats per minute. By 2pm, the plaintiff’s mother was fully dilated and the plaintiff’s head was high.
  • Over the next four and a half hours, the birth was protracted and complex. The plaintiff’s head descended slowly and, apparently, in a variety of positions. The plaintiff’s head was delivered at 6pm, when thick meconium was noted. There was considerable difficulty releasing the plaintiff’s shoulders, and eventually the plaintiff was born at 6.50pm.
  • At birth the plaintiff was flat, and oxygen therapy was commenced. He was slow to breathe. An ambulance was called, and the plaintiff and his mother were transported by air ambulance to the Royal Hospital for Women.
  • The plaintiff was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He was noted to have a right Erb’s palsy. He developed encephalopathy within 24 hours of birth, and upon imaging, changes were reported which were consistent with a diffuse hypoxic brain injury.

What happened after the birth

In 2012, Will’s solicitors referred him to a paediatric rehabilitation specialist who diagnosed the six-year-old with a range of conditions, including mixed tone quadriplegic cerebral palsy, microcephaly, epilepsy, moderate intellectual disability and functional independence significantly below able-bodied peers.

On Friday 27 September 2013, the NSW Supreme Court ordered Mrs Khalsa pay the boy $6.6m, which the judge assessed as a reasonable award for the plaintiff’s damages, based on the care he would require, lost earnings and non-economic loss.

The defendant Akal Khalsa did not attend court last Friday and the judge noted that Akal Khalsa elected not to defend Will Patterson’s claim, and her defence was struck out on 23 March 2013. Back in March, the court documents show Akal wrote the judge a letter:

“Please inform Justice Garling that I am withdrawing from these proceedings as I am unable to fund my defence. My previous solicitors have indicated that I was returning to Sydney on March 14th. This is not the case. My present situation is that I have no fixed address and minimal income with little to no prospects in the future, given my age of 68.”

In June, the judge explained he made orders in May to freeze Akal Khalsa’s assets and asked her to provide further information, which she didn’t do.

“When the matter was called on 18 June 2013, there was no appearance by, or on behalf of Ms  Khalsa  in compliance with that Order, which I am satisfied would have come to her attention. However, for more abundant caution, I declined on that day, to issue an arrest warrant and required the plaintiff to once again serve notice of the Court’s order for the examination which I fixed to take place at 2pm today, 21 June 2013,” the documents said.

What is the midwife doing now?

Akal’s website clearly states she no longer practices midwifery. However, she does spruik her services for overseas births. Her services can be engaged for a fee of  between $2,500.00 to $3,500.00 depending on the length of her stay (4 to 6 weeks). She also requires and asks for return business class airfares, travel insurance and visa costs. To secure the booking a non-refundable fee of $1,000.00 is payable to her nominated bank account.

Who is Akal Khalsa?

Akal Khalsa states on her website she is a “Sydney based midwife and provides midwifery services including: homebirths, pre-conception consultations, childbirth preparation, nutritional advise (sic) and breastfeeding support.”

The website also states: “She believes that the way in which a woman births is vitally important. It can have a profound effect on her self-esteem and can be reflected in her ability to confidently mother her children.

Akal says: ‘Giving birth is a very empowering experience. For you as the mother, it will enable you to birth your baby in a supportive environment that will enhance the birth experience’.”