published Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Hospital sends dead baby home with mother

  • photo
    A Chattanooga woman, who mourns the loss of her child over the weekend, says the hospital put her baby's body in a cooler and sent her home.
    Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Officials with Erlanger said the hospital's nurses sent a dead infant home with his mother in a cooler because state law says they couldn't keep the fetal remains.

"Erlanger respectfully honors the parents' decisions during this difficult time in their lives," said Jennifer Homa, a hospital spokeswoman. "Our policy strictly adheres to state laws when presenting options to the family."

Melvina Brown, 22, was 19 weeks in her pregnancy when she went into labor Thursday. The baby survived briefly outside the womb, but died Sunday. The baby was Brown's third unsuccessful pregnancy.

Brown signed a release form to take the baby home because she couldn't afford to send it to a funeral home, but said later she really wasn't lucid enough to make that decision after the birth.

Babies who die before birth and weigh less than 350 grams can be disposed of by the hospital if that is what the parents choose, Homa said.

But state law has other regulations for live births, she said.

"In the event of a live birth, pathology cannot accept the baby due to state laws and the family may either make arrangements with a licensed funeral director or may choose a private burial adhering to their county regulations," Homa said.

Charles Brown, Melvina Brown's father, said the hospital has agreed to keep the baby until they decide how the family wants to bury the child. Private burials are allowed in Hamilton County as long as the family has a designated burial plot.

Still, Brown said he is very upset with the hospital's regulations.

"Who gives a body to take home with them? That is unheard of," he said. "I know she wasn't supposed to bring no dead child home."

In such situations, Homa said, if parents choose to transport the remains themselves, the hospital "will provide them a container for the baby's body."

"Disposition of fetal remains is always the decision of the parents," Homa said.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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ldurham said...

Sad story, typical Erlanger fumbling. But were your editors asleep when they approved this sentence? "nurses sent a dead infant home with his mother in a cooler" How did his mother fit in that cooler?

November 16, 2011 at 10:13 a.m.
AtHomeMama said...

I'm a TN resident and I was embarrassed that this happened in my state. It was an unprofessional and uncompassionate thing to do. I don't care what the hospital policy is.

Chattanooga's Advantage Funeral home will perform the baby's funeral service free-of-charge. The graveside service will be Saturday at 1pm at the Memorial Duck Pond in Red Bank.

The hospital gave a statement. They said TN law only allows hospitals to dispose of remains when a baby is stillborn. They said the mother had choices and believe they have done nothing wrong. The hospital also stated the baby's grandmother and father could have objected. The mother said she was alone and still sedated and under the effects of medication when the nurse presented the release papers to her.

You can watch the follow-up video here>

November 17, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.
rolando said...

It wasn't "hospital policy", AtHomeMom. It is the law. Take it up with the state if you don't like it. This was a baby under the law, not a stillborn, a miscarriage, or an abortion.

You encourage Erlanger to violate the law on this issue? What other laws would you have them violate? Free medical care, perhaps? Purity of drugs used, maybe? Certified/licensed doctors, nurses, what-have-yous? How about disposing of deceased toddlers? Or 2-year olds? Or 20somethings? Maybe senior citizens? Where would you draw the line?

Do you challenge the hospital's statement? You didn't say if they were correct or not...

November 17, 2011 at 3:45 p.m.
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