When a hospital accidentally threw the body of Esmeralda Hernandez’s stillborn son into the dirty laundry, its staff did not initially tell the grieving mother.
Instead, Hernandez said she found out from the local news.
The Washington Post reports Hernandez and her family are suing Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota for treating the stillborn baby boy’s body and their rights with “disregard” and “indifference.” The family is asking for $50,000 for the “mental pain and suffering” they experienced during the ordeal, according to the report.
Hernandez delivered her stillborn son in April 2013, according to the report. He born prematurely after just 22 weeks in the womb, according to court documents.
The family named him José and worked with the hospital to arrange for his cremation.
Here’s more from the report:
But about two weeks later, the grieving family heard of a report on the news: The body of an infant, born at Regions Hospital, had been found amid dirty linens in a laundry facility in the town of Red Wing, 45 miles south of the hospital. The baby, still wearing a diaper and hospital identification bracelets, flew out of the dirty laundry and landed on a metal grate in front of the facility’s employees.
According to court documents, when the family heard the news report, they wondered: Could it be José?
They called the hospital, and soon after learned it was their child. Wrapped in linen, the body had been placed on a shelf in the morgue, Regions Hospital representatives told reporters a day later. A hospital employee, mistaking the remains as dirty linens, discarded them in the laundry.
In the lawsuit, the Hernandez family alleges that the hospital staff did not inform them about misplacing José’s body until after they called to ask about the local news reports. Only after the family agreed to come to the hospital for a meeting did the hospital staff admit that the news reports were about their son, according to the lawsuit.
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The case gained international attention from the news media in 2013.
The hospital apologized immediately afterward and said it would conduct a thorough examination of its practices involving stillborn babies. According to Minnesota Public Radio, the hospital’s typical practice with stillborn babies was to wrap their bodies in linens and store them in the morgue. A hospital spokesperson later said they changed the practice and now store the babies’ bodies in bags in the morgue.
In response to the lawsuit, a hospital spokesperson issued another apology for their mistake.
“We want to say again that we are truly sorry for our mistake,” a Regions Hospital spokesperson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Monday. “We immediately reached out to the family in 2013 to apologize and to try and help ease their loss. We have continued to work with their lawyer — always open to a reasonable resolution.”
The disposal of dead babies’ bodies has been an problem across the nation — especially with abortion clinics. Since undercover videos exposed Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts trade, a number of states have passed laws to help ensure that abortion facilities, hospitals and other entities are handling and disposing of these tiny babies’ bodies with dignity and respect.