Elizabeth Catlin faces a total of 95 charges in a 51-page grand jury indictment. She will appear in Yates County Court Jan. 7, 2020
UPDATE: The article has been updated to clarify the educational requirements for licensure in New York State.
Elizabeth J. Catlin, 54, of Penn Yan has been indicted on charges of criminally negligent homicide, unauthorized practice of the profession of midwifery, and 93 other counts of identity theft, criminal possession of a forged instrument, and falsifying business records.
Although Catlin is a Certified Professional Midwife, a professional title recognized in 35 states, she is not a New York State Licensed Midwife.
The case dates back to an investigation begun before she was first arrested Nov. 14, 2018 by New York State Police.
Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella says the charges stem from a coordinated investigation by the New York State Police, New York Education Department and the District Attorney’s Office in the Unlawful Practice of the Profession of Midwifery. She faces 31 counts each of criminal possession of a forged instrument 2nd, falsifying business records 1st, and identity theft 2nd for the possession and submission of falsified and forged lab submission forms.
The criminally negligent homicide charge stems from the October 2018 death of a baby after she transported a laboring woman to FF Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. The baby was born there, but died on the way to Strong Memorial Hospital. Officials at FF Thompson Hospital deny filing a complaint with the State Education Department about Catlin’s professional credentials. The baby’s family has distanced itself from the situation, requesting to not be mentioned in the criminal complaint filed by the state police.
Catlin also faces a felony charge of unauthorized practice of a profession in Ontario County.
She is scheduled for arraignment Jan. 7, 2020 in Yates County Court, one year to the day from her first appearance in Penn Yan Village Court, when a crowd of about 100 supporters — most Mennonites — filled the lobby of the Penn Yan Village Hall.
An even larger crowd stood outside the Yates County Public Safety building Dec. 22, 2018, when she was arraigned on felony identity theft charges. Within minutes of her appearance there, the group had passed a hat and raised more than $7,800 for her $15,000 bail.
Catlin has been under a court order since late 2018 to cease assisting women with home birthing.
The 51-page indictment spells out 28 instances between Jan. 2, 2017 and Nov. 28, 2018 of Catlin committing:
• 2nd degree identity theft by using the personal identifying information of a physician's assistant at Pre-Emption Road Family Medical Group, and
• 1st degree falsifying business records by submitting lab services requisitions to ACM Laboratories under the purported name of the physician's assistant.
• 2nd degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.
The Catlin case has drawn attention from regional and national media because of its impact on local maternity care at a time when there is already a shortage of professionals, and especially midwives who will support women delivering babies in homes.
During her court appearances, several of her clients said they had always been aware of her status, and they were not misled — that she presented herself as a birth attendant.
Many Mennonite families voice a strong preference for delivering their babies at home, a practice that is becoming recognized as a safe and healthy way to begin a child’s life in a low-risk pregnancy. With the closest hospital-based maternity units several miles away from any Yates County community, having a reliable midwife service is vital.
Since earlier this year, four Licensed Midwives have come from the Rochester and Schuyler County areas to provide services for the growing Mennonite and Amish community as well as others who seek in home births.