Hospital Sends Devastated Mom Photos of Her Dead Baby

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

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