Jury Will Decide This Case, but Moms Should Make Birth Decisions

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 29, 2001 | Go to article overview

Jury Will Decide This Case, but Moms Should Make Birth Decisions


Byline: Burt Constable

The heart-rending videotapes show the breech-delivery baby hanging in mid-birth, limp, his tiny arms and feet dangling, his head still stuck inside his mother's pelvis.

Then it gets worse. Spencer Verzi came into the world feet first at his home in Round Lake Beach on Aug. 19 of last year. His foot emerged about 3:46 p.m. and it took 46 minutes for the rest of him to be born. The baby's life didn't last as long as the videotapes that recorded it.

Spencer's young parents, Louis and Heather Verzi, are expecting their second child in July and say they don't blame Yvonne Cryns, the 50-year-old Richmond midwife who helped deliver Spencer, for their tragic loss. There is no civil legal suit alleging malpractice.

Cryns is expected to return to the witness stand today in her Lake County criminal trial, trying to convince 12 jurors she didn't cause Spencer to suffocate, isn't guilty of involuntary manslaughter and shouldn't receive a possible five-year prison sentence.

Many of the people watching this trial think this case is bigger than one life and one death.

"Inside the courtroom, it's Yvonne on trial. In the press and in the media, midwifery is on trial," says midwife Melissa Smith, 29, one of the dozen or so home-birth advocates who have attended every day of the trial, now entering its third week.

"I feel pretty strongly that we need to show support."

Smith drove five hours from her home in Menomonie, Wis., and is staying with her five kids in a local friend's trailer.

"This case is important," Smith says.

This case is personal for labor-and-delivery nurse Colleen Frayn. The 47-year-old mother of four chose Cryns as her midwife when she delivered her daughter, Clarissa, at home six years ago. "I felt very comfortable with her professional knowledge and judgment - moral and ethical," says Frayn, who gave birth to three of her kids at home.

The prosecution features the testimony of medical people who say Cryns was criminally reckless for attempting a potentially risky breech birth at home, and that she waited far too long to call for emergency medical help. The defense features midwives who say Cryns did everything she could to fulfill the Verzis' overwhelming desire to eschew traditional medical procedures such as ultrasound or a C- section, and opt for a home birth. …

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