Couple Who Lost Baby to Protest Birth Center

NBC 7 Investigates was first to reveal the clinic’s owner, Dr. Robert Biter, has had serious problems with the state medical board

A San Diego couple is organizing a very unusual protest in the North County.

Their target is a new medical clinic that they claim will put pregnant women -- and their unborn babies -- at risk.

Amber and Michael Lukacs plan to spread that message Saturday afternoon at the grand opening of “Babies by the Sea,” an “alternative birthing center” in Encinitas.

The clinic is a state-licensed alternative to hospital labor-and-delivery, and the center’s website boasts of its “beautiful, spa-like setting” and staff of midwives, doctors and massage therapists.

But, as first revealed by NBC 7 Investigates, the owner of the clinic has a history of very serious problems with the Medical Board of California.

The Lukacses blame that owner, Dr. Robert Biter, for the stillborn death of their infant on July 1, 2012. In an exclusive interview, they said they’ll hold a peaceful protest outside the center to discourage women from going there.

"Do you want to take a risk with your baby's life?” Michael asked. “You know, it's not worth it."

“I don't think [Dr. Biter] he has any business being around pregnant women or babies," Amber said.

NBC 7 Investigates first exposed Biter's problems in a series of stories two years ago. Public records from the Medical Board of California reveal that Biter eventually surrendered his medical license and accepted an accusation by the state medical board that his gross negligence, incompetence and unprofessional conduct caused the stillborn death of the Lukacs's son, who they named Ace.

"It's not something that you ever forget,” Amber said. “You wake up every day, you know, and remember Ace. You know, his birthday goes by every year. He'd be two."

Biter’s problems with the Medical Board began in 2009 when the board opened its first investigation.

In July 2011, the board filed the first of a series of formal accusations involving seven patients. The board accused Biter of gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, prescribing medications without an appropriate exam and dishonesty.

In May 2012, Biter made a settlement with the board, accepting a 60-day suspension and seven years of probation with numerous terms and conditions.

When the board learned of Ace Lukacs’ death, it moved quickly to suspend his license a second time while board investigators prepared their case against Biter. He remained on suspension until he surrendered his license last November.

Along with their planned protest, the Lukacses have created a Facebook page, "Stop Robert Biter, Save Babies and Moms" that include links to those medical board documents.

The couple also filed a civil lawsuit against Biter, who in court papers denied responsibility for the baby’s death.

Their lawyer, Robert Vaage, told NBC 7 Investigates, “My primary concern is that he [Biter] has never, under any circumstances, accepted responsibility or accountability for anything he's done."

That lawsuit has also produced surprising, and disappointing new information for the Lukacses.

They recently learned that Biter had no malpractice insurance, which would have helped pay for any legal judgment or settlement obtained by their lawyer. Biter also filed for bankruptcy early this year to protect his personal finances.

“He's managed to essentially go on with his plans like nothing happened,” Vaage said. “And that's not acceptable."

Biter declined to answer a series of questions from NBC 7 Investigates. However, he did send a statement, expressing deep concern for the Lukacses.

"The loss of [their] baby was a horrible tragedy and was devastating to all involved,” Biter wrote. “It is absolutely heartbreaking, and despite their animosity towards me, I extend my deepest sympathies to the Lukacses…”

Biter also said he is “committed to ensuring no other family is faced with a similar tragedy.” He also confirmed that, "I am no longer practicing medicine in California…”

Read Dr. Biter’s Full Written Statement Here

UTC resident Kelli Auld said Biter delivered her daughter, who is now 2. Auld has known the doctor for six years and considered him “a member of our family.”

“To me, it’s a travesty he can’t practice there. I know he’s going to find all the people who are trained and have the expertise to run an amazing birth center,” Auld told NBC 7. “There’s no one I would trust most with my body, my baby, with future babies.”

“There’s nobody like Dr. Biter. We feel at a loss that we can’t have him as our doctor anymore,” Auld said.

Biter told NBC 7 Investigates that he will not “be providing clinical services at Babies By the Sea Birthing Center, where my role will be purely administrative."

But Amber and Michael Lukacs insist that Biter's presence at this center is a danger.

"It's Robert Biter's birth center, so he's inherently involved in everything,” Amber said. “I don't believe he's going to sit in the back office and push paper."

There is a happy note to Amber and Michael's very painful story: They now have a baby girl named Lexi who celebrated her first birthday last month.

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