DHB says sorry to mum over plas­tic bag in­ci­dent

Hospi­tal sys­tems are be­ing re­viewed af­ter a mother’s dis­tress­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Florence Kerr re­ports.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Waikato District Health Board has apol­o­gised to a Toko­roa mother who was given the body of her still­born son in a see-through plas­tic body bag.

It has been 18 months since the in­ci­dent that trau­ma­tised mother Julie Jef­fery, who has since suf­fered an­other blow with the theft of her son’s head­stone from Toko­roa Ceme­tery.

‘‘It has been one thing af­ter an­other. To have your son given back in a plas­tic bag is some­thing no mother should have to go through and his clothes were blood­stained as well,’’ Ms Jef­fery told the Waikato Times.

Ms Jef­fery gave birth to Ju­lian on Fe­bru­ary 5 last year.

His body was flown to Welling­ton Hospi­tal for a post mortem.

He was then dressed by staff in Welling­ton and placed in a plas­tic body bag which was heat sealed and flown back to Waikato Hospi­tal mor­tu­ary.

Ms Jef­fery said she was phoned by mor­tu­ary staff that his body was ready to be picked up.

She said Ju­lian’s body was handed back in a ‘‘plas­tic seethrough bag’’.

‘‘It goes be­yond heart­break, it’s like your heart has been ripped out and stomped on. You love your child from the moment you find out you are preg­nant.

‘‘I re­mem­ber the first time I felt him kick.

‘‘ Those are things ev­ery mother re­mem­bers. He was loved from the start and to have him given back to me in a plas­tic bag, in blood-stained clothes is still very dif­fi­cult. I want the hospi­tal to know he is a per­son who is still loved and will al­ways be loved and he de­served bet­ter than that and I hope no mother ever has to go through this.’’

Ms Jef­fery ad­mits cut­ting open the plas­tic bag, go­ing against ad­vice from staff.

‘‘I asked the mor­tu­ary tech­ni­cian if he could open the bag he said no.

‘‘There was no way I was go­ing to hold my baby in a plas­tic bag back to Toko­roa, so I cut it open and hugged him all the way back home."

Waikato DHB com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Mary Anne Gill de­scribed the in­ci­dent as ‘‘aw­ful’’ and has apol­o­gised for the er­ror.

‘‘We apol­o­gise for the dis­tress this has caused Ms Jef­fery.’’

Mrs Gill said Waikato Hospi­tal dealt with be­tween 5080 still­born deaths an­nu­ally, say­ing it was quite com­mon for fam­ily or a funeral di­rec­tor to take pos­ses­sion of the body once it had ar­rived back from Welling­ton.

How­ever, the body bag con­tain­ing the baby is usu­ally put into a sealed box.

Mrs Gill said the tech­ni­cian was right in not al­low­ing Ms Jef­fery to open the bag due to the risk of in­fec­tion.

‘‘It is cer­tainly not nor­mal pro­ce­dure to hand a still­born baby back to its par­ents in such a way, we can say that quite cat­e­gor­i­cally that is not our pol­icy.

‘‘Why the baby was given back in such a man­ner in this way, we don’t know the an­swer to that [and] I’m sorry.’’

Given Ms Jef­fery didn’t report the in­ci­dent at the time it was dif­fi­cult to in­ves­ti­gate but the DHB would look at its poli­cies, Mrs Gill said.

Cathy Bunt­ting, chair­man of Sands NZ, a na­tion­wide or­gan­i­sa­tion that sup­ports fam­i­lies deal­ing with the death of a baby, was shocked. . ‘‘ I am hor­ri­fied. Ba­bies de­serve to be treated with dig­nity and re­spect. What hap­pened here is hor­ren­dous.

‘‘This in­ci­dent will make the griev­ing process far more dif­fi­cult, hav­ing first lost her child, then hav­ing the me­mory of her baby in a plas­tic bag.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion on the theft of Ju­lian’s head­stone should call Toko­roa Po­lice on 07 885 0100.

Ad­di­tional re­port­ing Ni­cola Bren­nan-Tu­para

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.