An Oregon woman who has been a midwife for four decades is accused of illegally delivering at least two babies in Kennewick.
Sherry Lee Dress, 69, allegedly practiced in the Mid-Columbia without a valid Washington license, and falsified the birth certificates to say the babies were born in Oregon.
Dress, who lives in John Day, Oregon, was charged this month with two counts – a gross misdemeanor and a felony – in Benton County Superior Court.
This is not the first time Dress has faced criminal charges for delivering babies in Southeastern Washington.
Last May, she admitted practicing midwifery without a license in Walla Walla County District Court.
That case came almost one year after a Walla Walla couple said it was Dress’ bad practices that resulted in the stillbirth of their full-term son, according to a Walla Walla Union-Bulletin story.
The woman labored for more than 50 hours at home, most of the time under Dress’ direction, before the midwife called for outside medical help, the paper reported.
All of the births happened after Washington’s secretary of health issued a permanent cease-and-desist order against Dress in November 2013.
Sharon Moysiuk, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Health, told the Herald on Monday that Dress has never been licensed in Washington.
The Oregon Health Authority’s website shows that Dress’ midwife license was first issued in September 2004. It expired in September 2015 and was not renewed because of violations of unprofessional conduct.
The revocation order by Oregon’s Health Licensing Office cited two births in Pasco and three in Walla Walla in which Dress filed birth certificates saying the babies were born in Canyon City, Ore. Those babies were born in 2014 and 2015.
A midwife is a health care professional who provides prenatal services, continuous care during labor and delivery and after-care support for a mother and baby. Midwives try to eliminate or minimize technological interventions, often assisting in births at home, a birthing center or a clinic.
Dress’ professional Facebook page says she is a certified professional midwife (CPM) and a licensed direct-entry midwife (LDEM).
She started her career as a nurse in a San Diego hospital, focusing on obstetrics and emergency room care, her professional Facebook page says. She has been practicing midwifery since 1975, including travel to Africa to deliver babies and train other midwives.
The page also says her “goal is to provide quality homeopathic care,” and to ensure that the mother’s pregnancy is as comfortable as possible with proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
A link for her business website is no longer valid.
The two new Benton County charges are for practicing a profession without a license.
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire said the law requires that the first charge is filed as a gross misdemeanor, with any subsequent counts handled as a felony.
Court documents show that Oregon State Police contacted Kennewick police while investigating Dress for practicing midwifery in several jurisdictions.
The Oregon detective reportedly was looking at Dress for falsifying birth certificates and other alleged criminal activities, and discovered the midwife had helped in at least two births in Kennewick in the past two years.
Police contacted the two mothers, who confirmed they had hired Dress as a midwife and that she was present when their children were born in March and April 2015, documents said.
Both families were given birth certificates by Dress that falsely said the babies were born across the state line, according to Whitmire.
Dress is scheduled to appear in a Kennewick courtroom next week to enter a plea to the charges.
In the Walla Walla gross misdemeanor case, Dress was sentenced to 364 days in county jail with all of it suspended on the condition she paid her court costs and fines and stayed violation-free during her two-year probation period.
The Union-Bulletin reported that Dress came to public attention after a story was published in October 2015 about Sarah Magill and Gabriel Marin’s experience with Dress.
Dress reportedly discouraged the couple from seeking outside help, then directed them to one hospital when another was several blocks closer to their home. The baby died before he was delivered at the hospital by emergency surgery.
Coroner Richard Greenwood said he believed the infant would have lived if the midwife had made different care decisions for the mother, the Union-Bulletin reported.
Baby Gabriel died from a prolonged labor with inadequate oxygen, the story said.
Dress was not investigated for the baby’s death.
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