Valerie El Halta, 71, of Eagle Mountain, was charged June 18 in 7th District Court with unlawful conduct, a third-degree felony, and one count each of negliglent homicide and reckless endangerment, both class A misdemeanors. If convicted of the felony, El Halta could serve up to five years in prison.
The charges, filed by the Utah Attorney General’s office, allege that El Halta administered prescription medications and attempted to suture the mother after she began hemorrhaging during the home birth. Prosecutors also allege that El Halta used a medical device known as a vacuum – a device that can only legally be used by licensed medical professionals – to help pull the newborn from the birth canal.
Officials with the Utah Division of Professional Licensing said El Halta has never been licensed as a midwife in Utah. Her midwife license was revoked years before by the North American Registry of Midwives Board, according to information on that board’s website.
Prosecutors allege El Halta was aware that the pregnant woman had previously given birth to three children by cesarean section, which would have made attempting a home birth high-risk, according to court documents.
El Halta, acting as a lay midwife, arrived at the home in Moab on Aug. 17 to help with the birth. Prosecutors allege she gave the 31-year-old mother prescription medication, which she was not licensed to administer. The labor continued into the evening of Aug. 18. Prosecutors say that El Halta performed a vaginal exam on the mother that evening, which caused the mother “substantial pain.” El Halta told the family that she was “breaking scar tissue” and “moving things along,” according to court documents.
After an hour, El Halta could no longer detect the baby’s heartbeat, according to court documents.
“The defendant panicked and grabbed a medical device referred to as a ‘vacuum,’” but when she pulled the infant out of the birth canal, the newborn boy was not breathing, according to charging documents.
The newborn was first transported to Moab Regional Hospital and then flown to Primary Children’s Medical Center, where he died Aug. 25.
Prosecutors also allege that by using the vacuum device and by administering prescriptions drugs to the mother, El Halta “caused such severe bleeding that the mother would have died had there been additional delay transporting her to the hospital ...”
“The attempt by [El Halta], who lacked proper training, qualification or licensure, to perform a high-risk delivery at home, unlawfully administer prescription drugs to the mother, use a vacuum to deliver the mother’s newborn, apply sutures to the mother and send the mother to the hospital without accompanying her or sending medical records so that emergency medical providers would have accurate information about the prior course of treatment of the mother, recklessly created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to the mother,” the charging documents state.