ChristianaCare lawsuit over fetal autopsy to move forward

A judge denied Newark, Del.-based ChristianaCare Health Services and ChristianaCare Health System's motion to dismiss a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress after its staff performed an autopsy on a fetus without consent, WDEL reported July 30.

Meredith Boas began experiencing fluid leakage in May 2021 when she was 16 weeks pregnant. She was admitted to Christiana Care and diagnosed with preterm premature rupture of the membranes and chose to have labor induced. Three hours later, the baby boy was delivered and died later that day.

The couple stated they wanted a placental pathology but "no fetal autopsy unless there [were] visual abnormalities," according to court documents. Discharge notes indicated the mother specifically declined an autopsy; however, more than a month later, the mother discovered the fetal pathology report in her medical records. The couple was later told the hospital had a policy of performing autopsies on any baby who died under 20 weeks "regardless of explicit parental directive to the contrary," the complaint said.

The couple are suing the system for infliction of emotional distress.

The hospital system's attorneys argue the autopsy does not rise to the level of being "beyond all possible boundaries of decency" and that the plaintiffs don't allege the act was indecent or intentionally abusive to the fetus.

An informational page on the system's website indicated that parents can choose to have an autopsy and have up to 24 hours to decide. However, a hospital spokesperson declined to say whether that policy was in effect in May 2021.

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