In an unusual and tragic claim, a mother has filed a lawsuit against the hospital where she gave birth. While it occurred in another state, it highlights a question of concern to any parent who has lost a child, whether the loss involved a birth injury or events surrounding the birth.

As many of our readers may know, multiple pregnancies can be difficult. Tragic complications arise in some cases regardless of the quality of care the mother and baby receive. Sometimes a child’s death is unavoidable — but sometimes it’s the result of a negligent birth injury — medical malpractice.

What happens after a child has died, though? Does the hospital still have legal responsibilities to the family?

In this lawsuit, a grieving mom contends that hospitals do, indeed, have such responsibilities. Reports by the Associated Press don’t indicate any evidence that her child’s death was caused by malpractice, but a hospital’s negligence still robbed the mother of something worth far more than money.

The woman was pregnant with twins around this time last year. Before her children were to be delivered, however, she was told that one of the infants had died. When she gave birth in June, she was blessed with one living twin to welcome into the world.

She never saw her other child. Not only did the hospital deny her the sight of her newborn’s face, it also disposed of the child’s remains without her consent, denying her the opportunity for a proper funeral and burial. According to her attorney, the hospital has never said what was done with the remains.

She has sued the hospital for negligence, seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages. The hospital has declined to comment publicly on the lawsuit.

Do you think the hospital violated a legal duty in this case? Most malpractice cases involve physical harm, but healthcare providers do have other legal responsibilities in areas such as patient privacy and informed consent. It remains to be seen, however, whether improper disposal of human remains justifies a claim. Do you think it should?

Source: WBNS Columbus, “Mom sues Ohio hospital over stillborn baby’s body,” Associated Press, Feb. 20, 2014