Campaign to Change Laws over Stillbirth Investigations

  • 07-07-10

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By Nicole Ballinger

Whether a baby dies from miscarriage, stillbirth or perinatal causes, bereaved parents often find it hard to process their grief when they don’t know what caused their baby’s death. It can really ‘haunt’ them, and they continue to re-live the tragedy of pregnancy and infant loss through PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). So knowing the cause is often very beneficial to one’s ability to overcome this tragedy.

 

Yet in Australia, the State Coroner can not conduct an inquest into the death of an unborn baby. A petition has now been launched with the aim to change these laws.

 

Australia’s Myf Maywald launched this petition. In 2009, Myf lost her baby when she was seven months’ pregnant. The hospital began its own investigation to find out what went wrong. But Myf also wanted the State Coroner to conduct an independent review into the death.

 

Myf was stunned to find out that this could not be done -- because, in the eyes of the law, her baby had not been considered a living person: the law currently defines a living person as someone removed from their mother's womb and shown to be alive. So at present, the State Coroner can not look into why a baby dies during pregnancy or labour.

 

“I was quite shocked,” recalls Myf. “I couldn't imagine why, for all intents and purposes, my child was a person to me and her death was important and stopping deaths like it occurred to me as equally important … I think it's related to an archaic sense of personhood and a time when people expected deaths particularly during birth and with babies.”

 

Myf has launched a petition that calls for the Coroner to be allowed to investigate the death of a baby seven months into pregnancy.

 

Groups like the Teddy Love Club and SANDS (Stillbirth and Neo Natal Death Support) help parents who have lost babies. They have extended their support for this campaign.

 

Rosie Reschke of SANDS, says: “Its really doesn't matter whether that baby took a breath or not. To them [the parents] it was their hopes, dreams and aspirations that have been taken from them. So they are grieving the loss of their child which is extremely painful.”

 

The AMA (Australian Medical Association) also believes the Coroner should be allowed to investigate any death during the birth process. “In any situation, we should be able to investigate the causes of death because in an ideal world there will be no deaths during the birthing process,” says Dr. Lavender of the AMA.

 

The South Australian Opposition government is now proposing a parliamentary inquiry.

Iain Evans MP says: “The Parliament, I think, should listen to what the Coroner has to say, listen to the medical evidence, listen to the grieving families and then make a proper judgment based on that evidence.” Whether the inquiry goes ahead will be debated by Parliament this September.

 

For the full report, read more

 

Source: Stateline South Australia, 2 July 2010


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