Crime

Amish women plead not guilty during court appearance

ADAMS COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) - Two Amish midwives have been charged in Adams County with illegally practicing medicine and administering medication to mothers and babies.

Sylvia C. Eicher and Lydiann S. Schwartz, both 73, both face felony charges of Practicing Medicine without a License and Unlawful Possession of a Syringe related to investigations in May 2017.

The two appeared in court Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. where they pleaded not guilty.  Both of them decided to represent themselves.

When the judge asked both women their highest level of education, Eicher replied 12th grade and Schwartz said 6th grade.

There was a strong showing of support from the Amish community at Friday's initial hearing. At least 40 people could be seen in the courtroom.

After the hearing, Eicher told NewsChannel 15 that she has been delivering babies for 37 years. She and Schwartz taught themselves how. Eicher claims they have delivered thousands of babies in the Amish community.

She said the medicines they use during child birth come from a veterinarian but did not say which one. Eicher said it was never her intention to hurt anybody and that she has saved thousands of lives.

The women claim to have been operating under the guidance of at least two local doctors. 

Calls to those doctor's offices were not returned to NewsChannel 15.

The prosecutor declined to comment on the case until it is resolved.

SCHWARTZ

On May 10, 2017, police were notified about a 14-day-old newborn that was rushed to Adams Memorial Hospital who later died. The Adams County Coroner said the baby died of congenital heart disease; a small hole was found in the child’s heart.

The baby’s parents told police that they’d received prenatal care from Schwartz, and the baby was born at Schwartz’s home, the affidavit said.

Schwartz told police that the baby stayed with her for four hours after it was born, and she said the infant “seemed normal” after it was delivered, the affidavit said. She said the infant was grunting but through a stethoscope she said she did not hear a “murmur or swishing” in the baby’s heart, the affidavit said.

Schwartz told police that three days after the delivery, the baby returned to her home for a Phenylketonuria test to check for “proper enzymes” which involved a “heel stick,” the affidavit said. The child’s mother also said Schwartz gave her an IV during delivery to “speed up the process,” the affidavit said.

Schwartz described the IV to police as a “veterinary ‘pit,’” or Pitocin, according to the affidavit.

Police asked Schwartz if she’d been medically certified and she said a Willshire, Ohio doctor taught her how to give IVs, the affidavit said.

The child’s mother and father said they paid Schwartz $550, which also included check-ups, the affidavit said. 

Police recovered syringes from the Schwartz’s home, the affidavit said.

EICHER

May 2017, police received a tip about a pregnant Amish woman who had been taken to Adams Memorial Hospital the day before for high blood pressure and a severe headache. While under care there, the woman told her doctor that she'd received two injections from Eicher, who she said was not a midwife but rather a "mother's helper," according to a probable cause affidavit.

Eicher is not licensed and cannot administer prescription drugs or injections.

Police then went to the woman's home. There, she told police that earlier in the week, she woke up with swelling in her legs, and her husband said she should go to Eicher's home for treatment. The woman said Eicher directed her to go to the hospital, where doctors induced labor at 33 weeks, the affidavit said.

Police then asked about the injections. The woman said Eicher had given her injections on two different occasions "for the baby's lungs" previously and she was not aware of the name of the medication, the affidavit said.

Police went to a building Eicher used as a clinic of sorts and found Eicher and her husband there. Eicher told police she "may have (given injections) and she didn't remember," the affidavit said. Eicher said she sees "so many women that she didn't remember," the affidavit said.

Eventually, Eicher admitted to the injections, according to the affidavit. She told investigators that she gives "vet medicine" injections in the hip area to help "mature the lungs."

Police found various medical supplies at the building including five sealed syringes, the affidavit said.

Both Eicher and Schwartz have been released from Adams County Jail after posting bail.


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