What? Goodness me, what a terribly frightening and inaccurate assessment of the real circumstances. The life guard actually put his charge in harm's way. He didn't intend to, he just got caught up in the "what if" and his mind raced all the way to "I remember when such and such a person started like this and in a flash, she had drowned." This is easy for providers particularly trained in an obstetrical (which by the way is a surgical specialty, and we will discuss that in the future) mindset to do. Easy not because it is normal or even rational way to think about labor and birth, but easy because they really have seen the worst of the worst and have a hard time not putting every patient in to a "worst-of-the-worst-waiting-to-happen" category. This is a tremendous weight to carry, though it is able to be shaken with the right balance and perspective checks.
The truth is, this is not how life guards perform their duties. It's a little absurd and neurotic to picture actually. A life guard knows his place (yes, there are always the few jocks who do not...). His place is not to intervene unless danger is really present. When he does otherwise, he will likely create new problems that did not exist or make the original problem even worse. Certainly there are exceptions to this analogy. There are those cases where a patient was seemingly doing just fine, and suddenly crashed. But all too often, those clients received an intervention just a short time earlier. Sometimes these emergencies happen regardless of what a practitioner does or does not do. Even the most healthy of us, is not perfect. We are physically imperfect people with physically imperfect bodies and physiology. On occasion, people's own bodies do not perform at the optimal levels and do need help or intervention or rescuing. Yes! And thank goodness for modern advances and skilled practitioners who know what to do in an emergency. Many lives have been preserved because of timely and skilled intervention. But, the ones who really need it, I mean really really need it, are far less than you think.
Erring on the side of caution. Defensive medicine. These may sound good on the surface. It is sad we have created this culture because it often has lasting negative effects on real people. And let me say, it is not primarily medical professionals who have created this culture--it is primarily consumers, patients, clients, birthing families! You may disagree with me and I would love to keep that discussion open. But, I will harp on this issue of wise and responsible consumerism till I am blue in the face. We initiate the directions in which prenatal and birth care go, not providers, though we often want them to be a scapegoat. And yes, modern obstetrics has it's own set of weaknesses, so neither side can be free of responsibility. Nonetheless--supply and demand is no less true in health care than in any other industry or service.