As a leading expert in the ethical, moral, and legal conundrums that lactation consultants face, we at Lactation Matters were thrilled to talk to Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA.
As the author of the only textbook focusing on IBCLC ethics and law as well as chapters and articles in several texts and journals, we spoke with her about common issues IBCLCs face when asked to serve as expert witnesses.
Want to learn more? Liz is commonly ranked as one of our most popular speakers! Hear her at the upcoming 2019 ILCA Conference, 24-27 July in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Lactation Matters (LM): We are looking forward to your session “Litigation and Lactation: Protecting Breastfeeding in Legal Proceedings.” As skilled lactation professionals, why might we be involved in legal proceedings?
Liz Brooks (LB): Sometimes breast/chestfeeding itself is the subject of legal inquiry (imagine an employee being told they cannot express milk at work, or a parent is told to leave a public place for feeding their baby). Sometimes the lactating parent is involved in a controversy, and the ability to breast/chestfeed the child is under threat (imagine a family law matter where the non-lactating parent seeks multi-day custody of the still-BFg child). The law of most countries of the world, in matters involving minor children, is designed to protect the best interest of the child. How breast/chestfeeding care promotes those best-interests-of-the-child are rarely well- understood by the lawyers, judges, and legal guardians involved in the case. An expert in clinical lactation care, like an IBCLC, can offer information to help the court make a good ruling.
LM: Being an “expert witness” could feel intimidating. How can we best prepare?
LB: Be “up” on your clinical knowledge and skill, and be well-versed in what makes you an expert (hint: READ all of your practice-guiding documents at IBLCE, and be able to describe what it takes to become and stay certified). It is the lawyer’s job to prepare you for your appearance. They can’t tell you WHAT to say, but they can practice with you HOW you will answer direct questions and cross-examination. You don’t have to be an expert in expert-witnessing …. you just have to be an expert in lactation! When in doubt, repeat over-and-over in your head: “I know more about lactation that anyone else in this courtroom.” Because it is true!
LM: While your expertise is in American law, we suspect that these professional challenges are present for IBCLCs around the world. How will this session inform our work globally?
LB: Families with young children find themselves in need of skilled support — legally, and for lactation care — all over the world. We’ve seen how man-made and natural disasters decimate communities. Families are forced to migrate as refugees, seeking asylum or legal immigration across native borders. Families split up everywhere, and the interests of the children are in play. While customs and traditions vary in cultures around the world, the inherent need for skilled advocacy is a constant. While the laws-on-the-ground may differ from location to location, that is something the lawyers worry about. The expertise an IBCLC will offer will be universal.
Learn more from Liz and other leading experts. Join us at #ILCA19.