Activist Maddy Oden

maddy-oden.jpgIn December of 2001, Maddy Oden’s daughter, Tatia Oden French, entered a well-known and well-respected hospital to deliver her first child. She was 32 years old, in perfect health, and looking forward to a natural childbirth. There were no problems during the pregnancy. According to her doctor’s calculations, she was a little under 2 weeks overdue. She was given the drug Cytotec (Misoprostol) to induce her labor. Ten hours after being administered Cytotec, Tatia suffered hyperstimulation of her uterus, an amniotic fluid embolism was released, and an emergency C-Section was performed because the baby was also in distress. Both Tatia and her baby Zorah died in the operating room.


Cytotec, also known as Misoprostol, is a drug manufactured to treat ulcers. It is NOT approved by the FDA – nor by the company that manufactures it – to induce labor. The FDA has issued an alert on Cytotec inductions, but Maddy’s Foundation had to publicize it. For the past 4 years, Maddy has gone to the FDA at least twice a year with an online petition requesting a medicine guide on Cytotec inductions be produced. The docket is still open. The Foundation returns to the FDA in June 2008.

Even FDA approved drugs – including Pitocin and prostoglandins such as Cervidil – can pose serious risks to both mother and infant. Click here to read more about the dangers associated with induction of childbirth.


While her daughter and granddaughter were still lying in the O.R., Maddy asked Tatia’s doctor if she (the doctor) would promise not to use “that drug” on anyone again. The doctor said “I can’t promise you that.” Not understanding that response – given what had just happened – Maddy decided that she had to stop Cytotec from being used to induce labor. As she was leaving the hospital that morning after the Coroner had taken Tatia and Zorah away , Maddy walked to her car and said out loud: “That drug is going to go away.” Maddy had no idea what was involved in the process she was committing herself to… She just knew it had to be done.

Maddy has spent most of her life since 1966 organizing around community issues that are close to her heart and that she is very passionate about, such as civil rights, the South Africa anti-apartheid movement, Vietnam war,  wars in the Middle East, as well as inequities in schools and health, and the work force, the public school system, and most presently childbirth. Maddy believes that all the organizing and political involvement that she has done in the past laid the foundation for the formation of the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation and for her not-so-seemless movement down the roads she needed to go.

Ina May Gaskin crossed her path when Maddy’s son-in law-asked her to make a square for The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project. Maddy called Ina May, got the dimensions and then just could not do it. Ina May said, “don’t worry… I will do it”. Approximately a year later, Maddy got a call from Ina May, who had made a square for Tatia, that she was coming to the Bay Area and wanted Maddy to see it. “So she comes to my house, with the square, with the quilt, and we sit for hours, talk, drink tea and decide to have the quilt on display in Oakland and have the foundation do an event on maternal mortality. Doors just effortlessly opened and more than 300 people attended the event. I had started digging on the internet about Cytotec, saw an article by Marsden Wagner and wrote to one of the magazines and a few newspapers asking them to let him know I was looking for him. A few hours later I received an email from Dr. Wagner, which said ” I understand that you are looking for me.” It was at this point that I knew my daughter was moving this journey forward. Marsden came to Oakland along with Ina May and we held our event in the Oakland Museum, totally paid for by the Mayor’s office.” Ina May and Marsden are now members of the Executive Board of the Foundation.


Tatia Oden French, pregnant with baby Zorah

Maddy stated that her greatest challenge is getting the word out regarding the issues that are central to the Foundation: maternal mortality in the US, informed consent, off label use of drugs, and of course Cytotec inductions. “The birth community knows, but mainstream women who are pregnant do not. These women are well taught by our culture to trust doctors and western medicine, to want everything – including their babies – right away… and painlessly.”

Maddy has brought a great deal of public awareness to the Cytotec issue; in addition to presentations to High School students, churches and community groups, Maddy has been interviewed by CBS, NBC and ABC, both in the San Francisco area where she lives and in other cities as well, interviews that have been aired nationwide. She is also pleased with the good press that has come out on informed consent.

The most enriching part of Maddy’s work is when she is present in her role as doula to witness a drug-free birth: “That is my greatest reward, assisting and supporting these young moms to birth free of drugs and medical instruments.” Maddy strives to “open women’s eyes to the awesome beauty and wonder of birth itself and learn to trust it and to trust the Spirit who originally created birth.”

“The challenges of making a difference and changing the institution of medicine as it deals with birth, are, as you know, staggering and radical – politically, economically, socially,”, says Maddy, “but everything that is worthwhile comes with a struggle, and whatever the obstacles are, will be, and have been, bringing childbirth back to its rightful place in the circle of life is so very much worth everything it takes to accomplish.”

The Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation, a non-profit corporation, was formed in March 2003 to give ALL women of childbearing age complete information concerning medical interventions and drugs which are administered during childbirth. The Foundation does this hoping that women may then be able to make FULLY informed decisions regarding the birth of their children.

Want to learn more?

Note that we are in the process of adding a section to the Conscious Woman Resources list — Black Box Warnings and Product Inserts on drugs used on women and children. This is an offshoot of our Conscious Activism programs with Jim Turner. Feel free to email us at if you would like to volunteer with this project.

Click here to read an article (adobe pdf) published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, entitled Routine Induction of Labor at 41 Weeks: Nonsensus Consensus.

Click here to view tips for 10-Month Mamas.

Gone past your due date? One of the most inspirational writers about the subject – Leilah McCracken – has taken her website offline, but I’ve done some sleuthing and found an excerpt of a post that Leilah made on about her 46 ½ week pregnancy and subsequent homebirth. Click here to read it.

Click here to view Ina May Gaskin’s collection of articles on Cytotec (among other things).

Click here to view the product insert for Cytotec/Misoprostol.

Cytotec isn’t the only dangerous labor-inducing drug! Always read the product inserts and check for Black Box Warnings on any drug you take. Click here to read more about other drugs used to induce labor (such as Cervidil and Pitocin).

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  1. Gloria Lemay says:

    cytotec court case:

    $2 million
    Failure To Obtain Consent For Off-Label Use Of Cytotec
    Case name withheld.
    Plaintiff’s Counsel: Joseph J. Wadland and James L. Ackerman, Wadland & Ackerman, Boston and Andover
    The plaintiffs were a 38-year-old woman and her husband who were expecting their first child. At about 41 weeks of gestation, the decision was made by her primary Ob/Gyn to induce her labor. A dose of 25 micrograms of Cytotec, a drug that the FDA has approved for the prevention of gastric ulcers, but not for the induction of labor or cervical ripening, reportedly was given vaginally. The care providers did not obtain the mother’s informed consent for the use of Cytotec that was being administered for an “off-label” indication in a high-risk situation. A series of complications arose, including the deceleration of the fetal heart rate and the baby was delivered via Caesarian section. The baby was lifeless and resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. The mother also required a hysterectomy as a result of off-label use of Cytotec. When the claim settled on Aug. 7, 2001, it was the first reported settlement or verdict in Massachusetts involving the drug Cytotec.
    This settlement was first reported in the Nov. 5, 2001 issue.

    And a few more maternity related lawsuits among the largest settlements in MA in 2001


  1. […] pm | In Uncategorized | I have just been reading about Conscious Woman’s woman of the month, Maddy Oden. In 2001 her daughter’s healthy pregnancy was induced with Cytotec causing hyperstimulation […]

  2. […] For more information on Cytotec, you can go to the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation website. Tatia Oden French was induced with Cytotec when she went past her due date. Both she and her baby died. […]

  3. […] she and her baby died. Her mother vowed, “That drug is going to go away.” You can read more about her efforts […]

  4. […] Info on Maddy Oden, whose daughter and granddaugher both died from cytotec induction […]

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