Hospital Sends Devastated Mom Photos of Her Dead Baby

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Taken Too Soon
I cannot imagine how it feels to lose a child. It must be so devastating and heartbreaking to feel the life inside you growing only to lose that fluttering, fragile life far too soon.

Heather Werth, a Cincinnati mother, lost her preemie newborn son Joey at Good Samaritan hospital after 16 days of life and has now taken legal action.

She isn't suing because of malpractice or medical mistakes. She is suing the Ohio hospital after photos of her dead infant were mailed to her. More than 150 photos of her posed baby, taken after his death, were sent to this grieving mother.

Werth maintains she informed the hospital multiple times she didn't want any photos after Joey's death. For Werner, the fact that they posed her infant goes against her wishes and dishonors his body. She, with her lawyer, has charged the hospital with desecrating a corpse.

Apparently, it's common for a bereavement team to snap some pictures to console a grieving family -- mementos of their lost child. However, everyone grieves differently and everyone's grief is different. 

Werner maintains she made her wishes very clear and those wishes were ignored, and said of the photos:

He was treated like a doll. He was flipped, and he was flopped. He was dressed, and he was undressed. He was wrapped in a blanket. He was posed. He was laying on his belly. He was laying on his back.

In all, she was sent 154 photos in 20 poses. Worse for her, the photos were taken and developed at a local Walgreens, allowing access to the sensitive images to folks beyond the hospital staff. And to send them in the MAIL?

For sure, this was a huge gaffe. Maybe there was an overzealous bereavement counselor who thought she knew better than Werner, but is this really worthy of a lawsuit? 

I am torn. 

I find it horrifying that this mother, who had plenty of pictures of her child alive in the happier two weeks before his death, was tortured with unexpected and unwanted images of her dead child. I am doubly horrified that these photos, taken against a grieving mother's wishes, were sent BY MAIL, without care taken to ensure she had some support around her on first seeing them.

I am certain these images haunt her and are NOT how she wants to remember her baby.

I also cringe at the thought that a dead baby was posed in such a manner. Then again, I cringed at the family members who took pictures of my grandmother in her casket at her funeral. For me, photos and memories of my beloved grandmother while she was alive are the only ones I would ever want to see or remember. However, everyone grieves differently.

At the same time, I can see how a common practice of taking pictures of babies who die at birth might be a small comfort for parents who might not otherwise have pictures to remember their child. While researching this practice, I saw several stories of mothers who lost children who stated that while they insisted they didn't want pictures of their child at the time, they had nurses and grief counselors insist ... and now they cherish these photos as invaluable physical mementos of their child.

There are different ways of looking at this story. Some may say this mother is greedy and looking to blame someone for her child's death. Others may believe this was an egregious violation of her child's body and her family's privacy, which is worthy of a lawsuit.

Does this justify a lawsuit or a simple apology for insensitivity? Does she just need to deal with her loss -- not what some call an insensitive lawyer exploiting her loss on Dr. Drew? Where do you stand?

 

image via by sabianmaggy/Flickr

death, in the news, law, birth stories, complications, miscarriage & loss, newborns

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nonmember avatar Shelly

I agree with all the reasons you stated. Honestly, I don't think this will hold up. I wonder if years down the road, she will be thankful for those photos? It doesn't make it right, but I hope she kept some just in case.

Jen Shadrick

OMG that is so sad.. i feel so sorry for the poor mother having a preemie is very stressfull you take alot of pictures because everything is so uncertain but to receive pictures after the death when you are trying to grieve and deal with the loss is .. i dont even know what to say if it had been me a lawsuit would be the least of the horris for the hospital..

xavie... xavierlogan09

so sick. i would sue. they have no right taking pictures of her child after death and sending them in the mail. my heart goes out to this mother. 

Jen Shadrick

i meant *least of the worries for the hospital...

nonmember avatar CMG

I feel for the mother and what happened was obviously a major misjudgement on someone's part, but it is absolutely not worth a lawsuit. People wonder why health care costs are so insane... well suing a hospital for unwanted pictures is certainly not going to help.

Megan... Megan1307

Its one thing if it were a small number of pictures (like less than 10).  Its the quantity and the number of poses that is so ridiculous.  I wouldn't usually jump to sue, but in this case I would.

jkm89 jkm89

It's so sad what happened to her, but it's also very unfortunate that she's trying to cash in on the situation. You'd think she'd want to let it go and let healing take place, not prolong it even further with a lawsuit. I hope she doesn't think money will make everything all better, if so, she is sorely mistaken.

nonmember avatar Anon

Sounds like there was a mix-up and someone who thought they were doing something helpful was unwittingly hurting this family. I personally would not sue. I would probably hide the photos somewhere, knowing that someday I (or the dad) might feel differently. I certainly would not pay for the photos. And I might let the hospital know they need to review their communication policies so the same thing doesn't happen to another family. ... I might feel differently if (God forbid) such a tragedy hit so close to home. But right now, I personally don't feel that posing the body was "desecration." I know the mom is entitled to her feelings, but I don't know that her feelings are actionable in court.

Elyss... Elyssa414

I think the mother has every right to sue. Her baby was manipulated and posed against her wishes after his death! That's sick and wrong, and now she has to live with those images for the rest of her life and with knowing how he was handled after she left him to begin mourning. Breaks my heart.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I agree with Megan on this. I can understand a few pictures. I can even understand the hospital having a policy of photographing every child and keeping a few in the records "just in case". But 150? In various poses and garb? It's like a photo shoot! That's just wrong. Especially after she made her wishes crystal clear.


Several years ago, a family member was injured in a serious car wreck. At the time, nobody considered taking photos in the hospital. Now, his wife is wishing they had done just that. He survived, you see, and now would like to see how he looked. And she'd like to have those photos to squirrel away until their children are grown enough to see what happened to dad and why. But alas, those photos weren't taken. Had the hospital done that, she could have gone back and gotten them. So I don't have a problem with the photo-taking, itself. I have a problem with the number taken, the posing, and the mailing without her knowledge or consent.

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