Doris Haire, a great leader in the campaign to improve maternal infant health in the USA has passed away. Ms. Haire died on June 7, 2014. She was 88 years old. Doris was one of the first true proponents of evidence based maternity care. Throughout her professional life, Doris advocated and fought for a woman’s right to birth as the mother wanted, free of unnecessary interventions. Doris led the way in bringing to light the conditions under which women were birthing in the USA with her 1972 essay “The Cultural Warping of Childbirth,” exposing the contemporary childbirth practices of the time.
Along with Drs. Kennell and Klauss and others, Doris sought to change the practice of isolating women from their support during labor and birth and keeping babies apart from their mothers after they were born. Additionally, Doris also recognized the importance of professional midwives at a time when midwives barely were a blip on the radar after childbirth moved into the hospital at the beginning of the last century. Doris helped establish the first State Board of Midwifery in New York, the first of its kind in the United States which defined the practice of midwifery as a profession separate from nursing and medicine.
Doris traveled to 77 countries to learn about maternity care practices and meet with obstetric health care leaders around the world, in order to gather information that she could use to champion the cause of maternity rights and evidence based medicine here in her own country. Doris was the Founder and President of the American Foundation for Maternal and Child Health. Additionally, she served on many boards and committees, such as the World Health Organization, various Perinatal Advisory Committees and others, testified in front of Congress on the topics of obstetrical care and presented at obstetrical conferences around the world. Doris also spoke at Lamaze International conferences as well.
Doris also examined how drugs are tested and used and published her research in a paper, “How the F.D.A. Determines the ‘Safety’ of Drugs — Just How Safe Is ‘Safe’?” As a result of this publication, Doris testified at Congress and her actions resulted in changes in FDA regulation and clinical practices. Obstetricians curtailed their use of sedatives and other risky drugs being used for pain relief and millions of childbearing women and their babies have been spared from unnecessary exposure to these risks.
Doris was also responsible for the passage of the New York Maternity Information Act, which requires every hospital to provide the information and statistics about its childbirth practices and procedures including rates of cesarean section, forceps deliveries, induced labor, augmented labor, and epidurals.
Doris Haire also wrote the following:
- The Pregnant Patient has the right, prior to the administration of any drug or procedure, to be informed by the health professional caring for her of any potential direct or indirect effects, risks or hazards to herself or her unborn or newborn infant which may result from the use of a drug or procedure prescribed for or administered to her during pregnancy, labor, birth or lactation.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right, prior to the proposed therapy, to be informed, not only of the benefits, risks and hazards of the proposed therapy but also of known alternative therapy, such as available childbirth education classes which could help to prepare the Pregnant Patient physically and mentally to cope with the discomfort or stress of pregnancy and birth. Such classes have been shown to reduce or eliminate the Pregnant Patient’s need for drugs and obstetric intervention and should be offered to her early in her pregnancy in order that she may make a reasoned decisions.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right, prior to the administration of any drug, to be informed by the health professional who is prescribing or administering the drug to her that any drug which she receives during pregnancy, labor and birth, no matter how or when the drug is taken or administered, may adversely affect her unborn baby, directly or indirectly, and that there is no drug or chemical which has been proven safe for the unborn child.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right if Cesarean birth is anticipated, to be informed prior to the administration of any drug, and preferably prior to her hospitalization, that minimizing her intake of nonessential pre-operative medicine will benefit her baby.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right, prior to the administration of a drug or procedure, to be informed of the areas of uncertainty if there is NO properly controlled follow-up research which has established the safety of the drug or procedure with regard to its on the fetus and the later physiological, mental and neurological development of the child. This caution applies to virtually all drugs and the vast majority of obstetric procedures.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right, prior to the administration of any drug, to be informed of the brand name and generic name of the drug in order that she may advise the health professional of any past adverse reaction to the drug.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right to determine for herself, without pressure from her attendant, whether she will or will not accept the risks inherent in the proposed treatment.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right to know the name and qualifications of the individual administering a drug or procedure to her during labor or birth.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right to be informed, prior to the administration of any procedure, whether that procedure is being administered to her because a) it is medically indicated, b) it is an elective procedure (for convenience, c) or for teaching purposes or research).
- The Pregnant Patient has the right to be accompanied during the stress of labor and birth by someone she cares for, and to whom she looks for emotional comfort and encouragement.
- The Pregnant Patient has the right after appropriate medical consultation to choose a position for labor and birth which is least stressful for her and her baby.
- The Obstetric Patient has the right to have her baby cared for at her bedside if her baby is normal, and to feed her baby according to her baby’s needs rather than according to the hospital regimen.
- The Obstetric Patient has the right to be informed in writing of the name of the person who actually delivered her baby and the professional qualifications of that person. This information should also be on the birth certificate.
- The Obstetric Patient has the right to be informed if there is any known or indicated aspect of her or her baby’s care or condition which may cause her or her baby later difficulty or problems.
- The Obstetric Patient has the right to have her and her baby’s hospital- medical records complete, accurate and legible and to have their records, including nursing notes, retained by the hospital until the child reaches at least the age of majority, or, alternatively, to have the records offered to her before they are destroyed.
- The Obstetric Patient, both during and after her hospital stay, has the right to have access to her complete hospital-medical records, including nursing notes, and to receive a copy upon payment of a reasonable fee and without incurring the expense of retaining an attorney.
Comprehensive and forward thinking at the time of publication, unfortunately, many mothers are still finding it hard to have all 16 points complied with during a pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum period.
Well known, well loved and deeply respected, Doris Haines was a leader advocating for the rights of mothers and babies for more than 50 years. She never faltered and provided unlimited energy and dedication to improving childbirth in the United States. Doris Haire was a role model for all of us and she will be certainly missed.
Donations to celebrate her life may be made to the American Foundation for Maternal and Child Health, P.O. BOX 555, Keswick, VA 22947.
A complete list of Doris Haire’s publications may be found here.