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Similar incidents have happened around the country. In 2008, a boy who was stillborn during the second trimester was inadvertently sent from Huguley Memorial Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, along with dirty laundry to the cleaners. It took hospital staff members 19 hours to find the body, which was unpreserved and had been crushed and disfigured.
“I felt disgusted because it’s a baby, it’s not a piece of trash,” the mother, Kourtney McGee, said Wednesday. “Six years later, I’m still grieving over Jacob.” McGee sued the hospital and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
In 2001, a stillborn girl at 20 weeks’ gestation was mistakenly treated as medical waste at Central Vermont Medical Center, leading to the parents reaching an out-of-court settlement for damages. After the stillbirth, paperwork was lost indicating the couple wanted the fetus for burial and the remains were mistakenly discarded.
It’s difficult to say how often these cases occur in Minnesota, given that the state Health Department’s adverse-incident reporting data don’t appear to apply to this situation.
Sherokee Ilse, a Maple Plain consultant, author and international speaker on coping with stillbirths, miscarriages and infant death, said parents in Minnesota have the right to claim the remains from stillbirths. If the death occurs at 20 weeks or less, she said, the hospital can arrange to bury or cremate the remains. After 20 weeks, the family must make the arrangements. The hospital would hold the body in its morgue until that occurred, she said.
“Accidents happen,” Ilse said. “Things go wrong. And they are, I think, to be used as a challenge and opportunity to create better standards of care.”
Ilse said that when she trains hospital staff members, she urges keeping the stillborn in the room with the parents if they are willing. Most are, she said.
“My experience tells me that the family will be deeply, deeply hurt by this,” Ilse said.
She said she’s served as a mediator between families and hospitals in a couple of similar cases.
“Most families don’t just want an apology,” Ilse said. “They want to know what will be done differently so this doesn’t ever happen again.”
Star Tribune staff writer Dan Browning contributed to this report. email@example.com • 612-673-4482 firstname.lastname@example.org 612-710-5367