Extraordinary People

The documentary strand exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues. This edition features a group of Indonesian circus performers whose shocking medical conditions made them the star attraction in a travelling freak show. With the show now disbanded, the performers have returned to their respective villages where they face the prospect of finding work outside the circus. ‘Extraordinary People’ follows a British surgeon as he travels to Indonesia to see if he can help the people combat their conditions.

In Indonesia, a close-knit group of circus performers known as ‘the Clan’ has long been the main attraction at a travelling freak show. Esih, Sahi, Sakim and Mamat all have extreme physical conditions that have never been diagnosed, but the performers have managed to earn a living thanks to the morbid fascination of the public. However, the circus has now gone out of business and the four performers have been forced to leave life on the road and return to their villages. Sahi is trying his luck at woodcutting, but says the work irritates his skin, which is covered in bubble-like tumours. “At least I never went hungry when I was part of the freak show,” he says. Esih, meanwhile, is unable to work at all because of an enormous growth on her face. “I have no life,” she says.

Having heard news of the Clan’s plight, British craniomaxillofacial surgeon David Koppel is keen to help. So far, all he has seen of the Clan is a video of their act. “The whole thing is distasteful,” he says. “It’s exploitation of their appearance.” Mr Koppel hopes that by flying to Indonesia, he might offer the group members diagnoses, and provide them with treatment that could turn their lives around.

Before Koppel arrives in Bandung, the four performers meet at Esih’s house. It is the first time the friends have seen each other in many months, and it is an emotional reunion. In fact, the situation proves too much for Esih, so Sahi, Sakim and Mamat head to a nearby hostel for the night. The next day, Mr Koppel is on his way to Bandung when he receives some worrying news. Esih has collapsed and must be taken to a local hospital for treatment, meaning she will not have the benefit of Mr Koppel’s expertise this time around.

Once he has met up with the remaining three, Mr Koppel sets about examining his patients and has soon come up with some diagnoses. Sahi and Sakim are both suffering from neurofibromatosis (Nf) – a genetic disorder that leads to the development of soft, fatty tumours on nerve tissue all over the body. Sakim’s tumours are mainly on the face, where one particularly large one has rendered his nose saggy and trunk-like. Sahi’s tumours exist all over his body. “It is not possible to remove all of these lumps,” says Mr Koppel, “but it is possible to remove several of them.” Mamat’s dry, scaly skin condition is outside Mr Koppel’s area of expertise, so the doctor takes his patients to Jakarta to enlist further medical help.

After meeting with dermatologists and surgeons at Jakarta’s teaching hospital, Mr Koppel gets his patients an appointment with the experts for the following day. “That’s a good result for the people involved,” he says. Delighted with the support the local doctors have offered, Mr Koppel visits the Clan members at their hotel to deliver the good news. Sakim is uncomfortable with the prospect of being examined by the doctors, but agrees to join the others. Mamat, on the other hand, wants to go immediately. “The sooner we go, the sooner we get some understanding of our conditions,” he says.

At the hospital, consultant dermatologist Eddie Carter recognises Mamat’s skin condition and is able to prescribe medication that will relieve his symptoms. After seeing the local surgeons, Sahi is booked in for a treatment to remove the worst of his tumours. In just six week’s time, Sahi will return to Jakarta to undergo an operation that could change his life. However, Sakim’s doubts get the better of him and he decides to return home to consult his family before going ahead with any treatment. “I think it’s a step in the right direction,” concludes Mr Koppel. Unfortunately, Mr Koppel’s visit came too late to help Esih, who died of undiagnosed breast cancer in January.

Wednesday 25th March at 9:00pm on five

The documentary strand exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues. This edition revisits the story of Dede, the Indonesian fisherman afflicted with tree-like growths on his limbs. A doctor in America has proposed a non-invasive treatment to cure Dede’s condition, but time is running out as medics in Indonesia press ahead with radical surgery.

Thirty-six-year-old fisherman Dede – better known as the ‘Tree Man’ – hopes to find a cure for the illness that has afflicted him for over ten years. Dede’s limbs are covered in horn-like growths and his skin is spotted with warts. His bizarre conditionhas left him unable to work and entirely dependent on his family. “I want to be cured so I can fish and earn money so that I can support my children,” he says.

Help is at hand in the form of Dr Anthony Gaspari, a dermatologist at the University of Maryland. Dr Gaspari visited Dede in his village and took samples of the growths on his body. Test results in America have revealed that Dede’s illness is an extreme form of common warts. “Because Dede does not have a
normal immune system, his wart virus was able to flourish,” Dr Gaspari explains. “It evolved into this massively deforming infection.”

Dr Gaspari recommends a course of drugs to stimulate Dede’s antibodies. However, Dede’s fate is now the concern of the Indonesian government, which has decided to step in following the massive publicity generated by the case. No sooner has Dede received word of Dr Gaspari’s diagnosis than a team of doctors arrives to take him to the local hospital. The president of Indonesia has apparently ordered that Dede receive immediate treatment.

Dogged by a press pack, a bewildered Dede is transferred to hospital, where doctors prepare to embark on radical surgery to excise the growths. “We are determined to remove these warts as soon as possible,” says Dr Rachmatdinata. But the plan goes against Dr Gaspari’s advice. “In an individual with a partly functioning immune system like Dede, surgery does not eradicate the wart infection,” he says. “In other words, the warts come back.”

The minister of health meets Dede in front of the cameras and tells journalists that doctors in Maryland are refusing to take their calls. This view is contradicted by Dr Gaspari, who is desperately trying to contact his Indonesian counterparts. Amid the media circus, Dede quietly submits to the doctors’ will. “I am alone. I feel nervous and scared seeing all those journalists,” he says. Once Dede is declared fit for surgery, doctors begin an exhausting four-hour operation to cut off the horns on his hands. They use a power saw to hack away five kilograms of tissue before removing warts from his head. This procedure is especially tricky as each wart has its own blood supply. The resulting wounds are left to bleed out of their own accord or else cauterised to stop the flow. Back in America, Dr Gaspari expresses his concerns about the aftermath of the surgery: “Wound healing, contractures,scarring, infection, nerve damage – these would be the things I would be worried about.”

Shorn of the growths on his hands, Dede is at last able to grasp objects, although the long hospital stay is wearing him down. “I’ll stick with it even though I am fed up,” he says. However, there are signs that the growths are beginning to return, even as surgeons prepare for a second operation that will see them remove the rest of his warts and graft skin onto his hands. To acquire enough material for the grafts, they insert saline balloons under the flesh of Dede’s back to stretch the skin.

Dr Gaspari finally reaches Indonesia in time to present the doctors with an alternative plan involving chemotherapy. But when the drugs fail to arrive within one month, the surgeons press
ahead with the surgery –only for complications in the operating theatre to put the entire endeavour in doubt. Will Dede ever be cured?

Wednesday 18th March at 9:00pm on five

New Series

Five’s acclaimed documentary strand returns for a new run of programmes exploring some remarkable tales of human experience from across the globe. The series opens with the story of Ronnie and Donnie Galyon who, at 57 years old, are the oldest conjoined twins in the world. The cameras follow the brothers as they attempt to fulfil a lifelong dream of watching their favourite American football team play.

For nearly six decades, Ronnie and Donnie Galyon have been locked together in the same body. Joined from the base of the sternum down to the pelvis, the twins’ everyday life is full of co-operation and compromise, since even the simplest of tasks can pose a challenge. But having spent their lives facing each other, Ronnie and Donnie get through each day thanks to a well-rehearsed and specially choreographed routine.

They live on their own in Dayton, Ohio, but are heavily reliant on their younger brother Jim for help. “Jim has been a saint for Ronnie and Donnie,” explains Dr Glenn Kwiat, the family physician. “He’s their lifeline.” To ensure the twins live as normal a life as possible, Jim and his wife Mary regularly take them out for breakfast at a local diner. Here, Ronnie and Donnie are well known by the locals and can enjoy their food in peace. But with the twins’ health now declining, Jim wants to take them 800 miles away to help them fulfil a lifelong dream of watching the Dallas Cowboys play in Texas.

Despite sharing the same body, the twins have very different personalities. “They’re total opposites,” explains Jim. While Ronnie is happy-go-lucky, Donnie is more uptight, even stubborn, according to Jim. They both enjoy watching television, but do not like the same shows. Their disagreements often end in fights, but the pair would never dream of being separated. “We were born this way by God,” says Ronnie. “Let God separate us, not surgical knives.”

From the day they were born, the twins were bombarded with offers of work from fairs all over the USA. With nine children to support, their father, Wesley, made the difficult decision to take the twins on the road as a sideshow attraction. ButRonnie and Donnie loved life on the road. Their tours made them celebrities and brought them fame and fortune, with which they were able to support the rest of their family. “I’m proud of them for that,” says Jim.

In 1991, after three decades of work, the pair retired and moved into their first independent home. Despite being 39 at the time, the twins had never looked after themselves and needed a year of lessons from Jim to learn essential skills like cooking and housework. Over the last decade, however, the combination of weight gain and old age means that coping is becoming ever more difficult for the twins. “I think they feel somewhat trapped in that house,” says neighbour Scotty.

While they are still able to move, Jim is determined that his brothers will make it to their first football game. “This is a once in a lifetime thing,” he says. “They’re totally stoked.” When the time for the trip arrives, the twins are very excited. “Got up at 4 o’clock, had a shower and I’m ready to boogie!” says Donnie as he and his brother are helped into Jim’s specially adapted car.

Once away from their own neighbourhood, Ronnie and Donnie are attracting a lot of attention –but Jim is more worried about getting the twins onto the plane. However, he will not let a minor inconvenience like fitting onto the plane get in his way. “If all else fails, we’re driving to Dallas,” he says. Luckily, the airline crew have allowed the twins three seats in a row and they manage to make it safely to their destination. After an anxious wait to repair the special wheelchair that was damaged in transit, Jim, Mary, Ronnie and Donnie arrive at the stadium. But the brothers’ loyalty may yet be divided, with the twins supporting the Cowboys and Jim rooting for their opponents, the Bengal Tigers.

The documentary series exploring remarkable stories of human experience continues. This instalment features a girl born with a rare and debilitating defect which gives her a mermaidlike appearance. As she prepares to undergo surgery to have her legs separated, the girl’s parents agonise over their decision to allow the risky procedure to go ahead.

Shiloh Pepin suffers from sirenomelia or ‘mermaid syndrome’, a rare condition that means her legs have been fused together since birth. In most cases, a sirenomelia sufferer dies at birth or soon after, but Shiloh has defeated the odds in making it to her eighth birthday. It has not been an easy journey for her and her parents, Leslie and Elmer. As Shiloh was born with only one kidney and no lower colon, bladder, uterus or genitals, she has already endured years of medical treatment in her short life.

Shiloh’s mother, Leslie, describes her daughter as “an amazing young lady – bubbly and funny”. In fact, she puts Shiloh’s long life down to her fighting spirit. Shiloh loves dancing, and even attends classes. Her doctor since birth, nephrologist Matt Hand, says, “We’ve had to ask other doctors to help her and they always say no. And we always know that all they’ll have to do is meet her, and they’re not going to turn her down.” Two years ago, Shiloh’s kidney function shut down completely and she was put on dialysis.

Eventually, the harrowing treatment could not be administered as doctors could no longer find a suitable place to attach the machine onto her small body. The last resort was a kidney transplant, but it was a short-term solution because Shiloh’s body quickly outgrew the new organ. When the second kidney also failed, Shiloh was forced to go back on dialysis once again.

In August 2007, Dr Hand performed a second kidney transplant. The operation was particularly crucial, because the kidney needed to be accepted by Shiloh’s body in order for her to be healthy enough to have separation surgery. The two other mermaid syndrome sufferers in the world have both had the operation, but doctors had greater concerns about Shiloh’s case because her body was already so imbalanced.

As Dr Hand waited to see whether Shiloh was fit for surgery, Shiloh’s parents were at an impasse. While Leslie was eager for her daughter to have the surgery and live a normal life, Elmer was not sure there was a need. The house-husband wondered whether his daughter’s fused limbs were really a disability. Would more quality time with their daughter reap greater rewards than a potentially life-threatening operation?

The documentary series exploring remarkable stories of human experience continues. Psychic Derek Ogilvie claims he can read the minds of infants who are too young to communicate verbally. Now he agrees to undergo a series of experiments to test the limits of his alleged abilities. He even faces the ultimate sceptic in the form of James Randi, an investigator who has offered $1million to anyone who can provide evidence of the supernatural.

At a meeting room in Scotland, dozens of mothers flock to see a man who offers them the seemingly miraculous possibility of communicating with their infants. Derek Ogilvie says he can interpret babies’ thoughts and feelings. “I open up and allow information to freely come from the child,” he explains. “That information may take the form of an image, a picture or a movie.”

Derek, 42, knew from an early age that he possessed a kind of gift. Throughout his childhood he received a series of paranormal visitations, before the spirit of his grandmother urged him to seek a job on the radio. It was the start of David’s journey towards becoming a professional psychic and a minor celebrity.

The parents who turn to Derek for help are impressed by the highly personal and specific information he seemingly extracts from their children. “He’s fantastic. He gets everything spot on,” says one mum. Yet Derek must constantly defend himself from charges that he is feigning his abilities. “I’m no liar. I’m no fake,” he says. “Analyse what I do, and you’ll see that I really do it.”

To this end, Derek has agreed to subject himself to a series of tests. His first stop is Goldsmiths College, London, where Professor Chris French has arranged for him to perform a reading on six children. After spending some time with the toddlers, Derek will record the specific information he has gleaned from each child. Crucially, he will meet the kids without the parents being present – to rule out any possibility of “cold reading”. This is a technique whereby psychics gather details about their subjects by analysing their reactions to a battery of comments and observations.

As the experiment begins, it is immediately apparent that Derek is struggling to make a connection with the infants. In the absence of the parents, he even begins cold reading from the child minder. At the end of the test, the parents are asked to pick the reading they believe corresponds to their child. Only one child is correctly identified – well within the boundaries of chance. Professor French is satisfied that there is no psychic ability on display. “My opinion? He’s fooling himself – [and] he’s fooling lots of other people,” he says.

Derek is genuinely upset by the results, but vows to fight on by taking the biggest challenge of all. He flies to Florida to meet paranormal investigator James Randi, who has offered a $1million reward to whoever can prove the existence of the supernatural. Randi has spent his whole life debunking the claims of psychics. “My experience has always – in every case – been negative,” he says. “There’s no evidence to support it.”

Randi has devised a simple test in which Derek must guess which one of ten objects a child in the next room is holding. Derek finds his surroundings off-putting, but he has at least been allowed to choose the child in question and spend time practising with him. Despite this preparation, however, Derek only guesses one object correctly. “I can’t say that he’s a fraud or a fake – all I can say is that he can’t do what he says he can do,” is Randi’s verdict.

Bitterly disappointed by the outcome, Derek claims that the test is designed for people to fail. His one remaining hope is to allow scientists to perform a digital scan of his brain – with astonishing results.

Extraordinary People returns with five, hour-long films including: The World’s Smallest Muscle Man which follows 20-year-old Indian primordial dwarf Romeo Dev as he attempts to reach international stardom; The World’s Tallest Woman follows the story of 34-year-old Yao Defen; The Little Mermaid looks at the life of eight-year-old Shiloh Pepin who has Sirenomelia or Mermaid Syndrome, an extremely rare birth defect where both legs are fused together and The Million Dollar Mind Reader follows Derek Ogilvie who claims he can read the minds of infants who are too young to communicate verbally.

The documentary series exploring remarkable stories of human experience continues. This instalment profiles Aditya ‘Romeo’ Dev, a 20-yearold Indian man who stands at 2’9” tall and weighs just one and a half stone. Despite Romeo’s diminutive stature, he has risen to international stardom as a bodybuilder and dancer.

One of only a few hundred known primordial dwarves on the planet, Romeo Dev has spent much of his life housebound, protected by his parents from the cruel taunts of an unforgiving world. Behind closed doors, however, Romeo would spend his time exercising and dancing to the tunes of his favourite Punjabi rapper, Jazzy B.

In 2006, following months of intensive training with custom-built 1.5kg dumbbells, Romeo was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest bodybuilder. News of his achievement spread, and people were soon flocking to Romeo’s gym from miles around to watch displays of his dancing skills and weightlifting prowess. He is now famous throughout India and makes regular appearances on television.

After pictures of Romeo training in his gym were released earlier this year, the international media and talent scouts have been hot on his trail. This week’s Extraordinary People tells the story of how Romeo came to be a star and follows the next stage of his adventure, as he and his parents travel to America in search of global success.

On his travels, Romeo meets Jason Acuna – better known as Wee-Man thanks to his appearances in ‘Jackass’ – who advises him how to further his career while avoiding being stereotyped. Romeo and his family also meet a photographer who specialises in taking pictures of dwarves, and learn that Romeo is one of a number of primordial dwarves with a rising profile.

The film climaxes in Las Vegas where Romeo watches a performance by the world-famous Cirque de Soleil circus troop. After enjoying the show, he then has a chance to impress the casting director with his very own audition on the big stage.

The documentary series exploring remarkable stories of human experience returns for a new run.

This film profiles Mandy Sellars, a woman with a bizarre condition that has left her with legs four times larger than those of the average person. With her health under threat and her lifestyle impeded, Mandy travels to America in search of medical help. Mandy Sellars is a confident, lively 33-year-old woman saddled with a strange and bewildering condition. Mandy has legs four times the normal size. She weighs 20 stone – 15 of which are her legs. One leg is five inches shorter than the other and she has a club foot that has turned backwards 180 degrees.

Doctors believe Mandy has an extreme form of Proteus syndrome, a rare disease most commonly associated with Joseph Merrick, the ‘Elephant Man’. Proteus syndrome manifests itself in abnormal growths of skin and bone, along with an array of other symptoms. Yet no one has ever reached a definite diagnosis and Mandy’s deformity has never been fully investigated. Mandy’s problems were first evident at birth. As a baby she had unusually large legs and feet and was not expected to live more than three weeks. Against the odds, Mandy survived and enjoyed a relatively normal childhood, despite her physical impairment. But when she reached adulthood, her body stopped growing while her legs continued to develop.

Although it requires massive effort and entails extreme discomfort, Mandy can still get around with the help of crutches. She remains fiercely independent and has qualified as a counsellor with a degree in psychology. However, a time will come when she can no longer maintain her current lifestyle. She is suffering from scoliosis of the spine and her heart is working overtime. Voluntary amputation of her oversized limbs seems to be the only course open to her, but first she plans to visit the USA to see if experts there can offer any alternative solutions.

The journey to the States is a difficult and painful operation, as no airline can comfortably accommodate Mandy’s legs. Once in America, she meets with world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr William Ertl and prosthetic whizz kid Kevin Carroll. Ertl and Carroll have worked together on a number of challenging cases and Carroll famously provided a prosthetic tail for a dolphin. Can these two experts in their fields provide a way forward?

Elsewhere, Mandy meets another woman who had a similar condition and underwent voluntary amputation on one of her legs. She also visits an athletics meeting where all the competitors are amputees. The experience gives her food for thought as she ponders the prospect of life without legs. Although Mandy is determined not to remove her legs by choice, she knows that her health issues could make the decision inevitable. How long should she wait?

Back in the UK, Mandy receives a welcome boost with the news that a doctor is willing to take on her case and continue the search for a diagnosis. Dr Susan Huson is convinced that Mandy has a genetic or ‘mosaic’ condition, which may be unique to her. If proven, it could mean that one day Mandy will have her name in the medical books. But can any diagnosis make a practical difference to her day-to-day life?

The series exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues this week with the story of Flo and Kay, the world’s only female autistic savant twins. Savantism is a rare condition in which sufferers of developmental disorders, often autism, are capable of acts of genius that far outstrip their expected levels of ability. In Flo and Kay’s case, they each have extraordinary memories for facts and dates. Through interviews with several medical professionals, Extraordinary People: The Rainman Twins attempts to expose the truth behind this oft-misunderstood condition. Describing themselves as “human computers”, Flo and Kay can access their memories and make calculations more efficiently than most people.

Among their many special talents is an ability to compute the day of the week for any date – past or future. For any given day of their lives, they can remember what the weather was like and even what they had for breakfast. According to psychologist Dr David Holmes, Flo and Kay’s wellordered minds are also reflected in their wellordered lives. “The more that they can create order, the more secure they feel,” he says.

An example of how this desire for order has manifested itself in the twins is their obsession with routinely watching television. In particular, they are big fans of Dick Clark. The popular US television personality is an all-American institution, and appears on Flo and Kay’s favourite show, ‘$100,000 Pyramid’. They call him their “personal saviour” and religiously watch every episode of the game show. ‘$100,000 Pyramid’ is packed with facts, figures and trivia, and the twins catalogue all the questions and answers featured. They even record the number of times the buzzer sounds in each episode. So when the programme was taken off the air, the sisters were devastated.

“We prayed for it to come on,” says Flo. “And our mother always used to say, ‘Your prayers are always answered.’ But this time it doesn’t work.” Although it is widely assumed that the twins have savantism, it has never been formally diagnosed – and the condition is not an officially recognised medical disorder. The only thing doctors know for sure is that they have autism. But just how autistic are they?

At 52 years of age, the twins are bubbly and sociable. They are passionate about music, enjoy going to gigs and love to laugh. This means that they do not fit the classic stereotype of autism sufferers. At the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, Dr Nancy Isenberg uses the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) to perform her assessment. She asks Flo and Kay a series of questions about friendships and emotions. As well as listening to their answers, she observes the sisters’ body language. Dr Isenberg concludes that despite Flo and Kay’s outgoing natures, they still possess the standard signs of autism – minimal eye contact, poorly modulated voices and failure to engage in conversation.

Next, Dr Darold Treffert is asked to assess Flo and Kay. Dr Treffert is a leading expert on autistic savantism – he was the consultant on the film ‘Rain Man’ and advised Dustin Hoffman on how to portray his character. After a brief meeting with the sisters, there is no doubt in his mind that they are autistic savants. But Dr Treffert is quick to point out that there is still so much to learn about the disorder. “Until we can account for the savant, we can’t account for brain function overall. Until we can explain the savant, we really can’t explain ourselves,” he concludes.

The series exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues this week with an insight into the growing trend of freebirthing. The film follows the journeys of three pregnant women, in the UK and the US, who have decided to forego traditional medical care and give birth in their own homes with no professional assistance or pain relief.

In South London, Clair, a 26-year-old nurse, discusses the bad experience she had when delivering her first baby in hospital. “They insisted on monitoring me and intervening in ways that I didn’t want,” she says. She was also left alone in the delivery room until the final stages of labour.

When the midwife did check in, says Clair, she was more interested in looking at the machinery than in tending to the patient. “Births are overmanaged, over-medicalised,” she says. “Midwives seem to have lost that empathetic, caring side of their job.”

Due to these experiences, Clair has elected to have her third child at home – without medical assistance. Because the law in the UK is unclear on the topic of freebirthing, many women avoid the medical system altogether and go underground for fear of prosecution. But halfway through her pregnancy, Clair is anxious to make sure that all is well with her unborn baby. At Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, the senior midwife learns of Clair’s plans and immediately withdraws the clinic’s support. This means that Clair is ineligible to receive the free home-birthing kit given to women using midwives. Instead, Clair will only have her partner, Yasmine, there to help.

Concerned that Yasmine may face prosecution for her involvement in the process, Clair pays a visit to lawyer Beverley Beech. “Any woman who is told that it’s illegal to give birth without a midwife is either being told by somebody who is lying, misinformed or ignorant,” says Beverley. Armed with the knowledge that the law is not designed to prosecute those attending the birth, Clair decides to go ahead with her original plan.

In the US, Heather, a mother of one, opts to steer clear of the medical system altogether. Although freebirthing is legal in all but one state, it remains highly controversial. So Heather has done some research and is conducting her own checks and examinations. Two weeks before her baby is due, she visits Wal-Mart to check her blood pressure on the in-store reader. She also buys a foetalscope – an instrument used to measure the baby’s heartbeat – on the internet. The only other precaution she takes is to seek the advice of an independent midwife on how to resuscitate her newborn if it fails to breathe. Like Clair, Heather experienced problems with hospital delivery. “I don’t know why they were threatening me with a C-section,” she says, before adding that she was able to deliver her son naturally ten minutes later.

The film also follows the story of Clio from Wales. Clio was inspired to have a free birth when she visited Born Free, a website that champions the method. “I came across this picture of a woman giving birth in a swimming pool laughing, and you think to yourself, ‘Wow’,” she explains.

All three women share the common dream of a natural birth in the peaceful surroundings of their own homes. But despite online success stories, the experts are apprehensive about the increasing popularity of this risky practice. Obstetrician Maggie Stott voices her concern: “I worry that if more and more births happen unassisted, that a mother, or more likely a baby, will die as a result.”

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