Action Items - In The News
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--The right thing regarding fetal testing and fetal disposition.
Dear MN Hospital/Clinic Care Providers,
I have been visiting hospitals and clinics lately to check in, share resources, and hear about any issues that might be at the forefront. One has come to the surface that I have researched. Please allow me to share what I have learned, noting that I am not an attorney and that I ask you to use this as a guide for discussion and research purposes as it impacts your policies. To be clear, this is my opinion, not a legal opinion. While I have consulted with staff at the MN Health Department, they cannot endorse a private party letter such as this. However, you may call them directly in your own research. I suggest you talk with someone in the Mortuary Science Division, 651-201-3829.
--If you Have a Miscarriage, Know Your Legal and Parental Rights
Jean and Mike Morrissey and Cecilia McGregor are parents who were told they could not have the remains of their babies after they miscarried early in pregnancy. All three fought to take their baby home to bury, were denied that right and now are fighting to change the system in their hospitals and in their entire state. Read more at:
Each year thousands of families experience miscarriages. How each one is treated in that facility is of lifelong impact. Over the years, and especially recently, it has come to light that parents are not being treated appropriately - this clearly is their baby and they have the legal rights to see, hold, name, authorize testing/autopsy, and take the body (even after a D & C) to bury or cremate - or they can choose not to do any of these things. The parents are the executors of the body and the ultimate authority; the hospital is merely the custodian. They must ask for direction from the parents about what should be done, then they carry out the directions of the family/executors.
Yet, this doesn't always happen in today's hospitals and clinics. And most patients don't even know their rights. Why would this occur? In a desire to protect the families (and maybe themselves), some staff take over the decision-making or assume that treating the miscarried remains like tissue and using hospital disposition (usually incineration in the hospital furnace with other medical waste) are acceptable. For many reasons they don't tell patients exactly what will happen and/or don't feel comfortable of informing such families of their rights. Lack of training and understanding is a part of the problem. These are caring people who wouldn't purposely harm someone, but they do need to learn how to better prepare parents and to care for them during such a traumatic time.
How can you help at this time?
1. Learn more about these two visible cases where parents' rights were
Dr. Jason Collins (OB-GYN doctor from Louisiana) has been studying the cause of stillbirth for over 20 years. Recently he has concluded that umbilical cord accidents often combined with 'nice' low blood pressure, and on occasion other stressors like cord insertion issues, can result in the distress of the baby, sometimes leading to stillbirth.
As a result, he has created The Perinatal Umbilical Cord Project; a program where he loans out home monitors to pregnant patients across the country who have already had a stillbirth. In working with these mom's own doctors, Dr. Collins can monitor from a distance the baby's heartbeats, even during the night. If there is stress he calls the patient and encourages them to get to the hospital or clinic promptly. So far each mother of a previous stillborn baby who has been monitored had subsequent pregnancy issues. And thankfully, each baby born made it and was healthy; many were born around 36 weeks.
This is awesome! Keep in mind, there are no guarantees and over time, hopefully this will be studied by others and maybe become a standard of care for certain pregnancies. There are many other ongoing studies (finally!) on the potential cause(s) of stillbirth. So the good news is--there is important work being done! Now you too can do something. I've asked Dr. Collins if I may seek help to fundraise for more monitors so he can then loan them out, (no charge for his time or the monitors). He has agreed. So if you wish to make a positive difference in the name of your baby or someone else's baby, send donations of any amount to the following. The monitors cost $4,000 each.
Send checks to:
You can also help by supporting an exciting relatively new organization - the International Stillbirth Alliance who promote and help fund research in stillbirth. This is the first time in our history that stillbirth research has been targeted by an organization. At ISA's fall 2005 annual meeting, I was elected to the board of directors and also serve on the parental committee. I am honored and excited!
The International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA), a non-profit coalition of organizations founded by stillbirth parents, is dedicated to understanding the causes and prevention of stillbirth. Their web site can be found at:
The mission is to raise awareness, educate on recommended precautionary practices and facilitate research on the prevention of stillbirth. ISA serves as a centralized resource for sharing information and connecting organizations and individuals.
ISA philosophy is to unite groups around these issues and use its strengths as a whole to make a difference. They believe that having a centralized place for stillbirth issues and sharing information will accelerate progress. Together groups can provide the public with accurate and validated information about stillbirth.
please consider participating in this study that will "explore the experience and meaning of living with and transforming loss for mothers whose babies were born still. In doing so, mothers experiences will be acknowledged and hopefully a better awareness and understanding of the experiences of loss will result. This research will provide women from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to share their stories of how they live with the loss and love of their stillborn babies. Their stories may be a vehicle to help other women cope with their unique experiences and foster recommendations for improving health and bereavement care to women. It is also hoped that the unnecessary suffering that can come with a lack of understanding will be diminished. The arts will be used as a way to translate the findings of this study. Please go to the following website if you wish to participate and learn more about our study." www.sunnybrook.ca/bornstillstudy
Exciting news for Minnesota parents!
May 13, 2005. The Missing Angels bill has passed unanimously in both the House and Senate this past week. Soon the Governor will sign it making Minnesota the 12th state to pass this law. Now parents will be able to receive a certificate of birth for their stillborn baby (over 20 weeks). Even those of us who had a baby years ago will be able to request such a certificate after August 1, 2005. Much hard work by a few moms made this happen. We did it! And we're feeling quite proud! Good luck to all of you in other states. We hope your state will be next. A special thanks to Joanne Cacciatori (MISS Foundation) and Richard Olsen (National Stillbirth Society), both of Arizona who played key roles in starting this movement and keeping it going!
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