30 Aug Timely Medical Response When a Baby Dies
29th July, 2007
For nearly 20 years, I have provided grief support and resources to parents losing one, more or all their multiple-birth children. On their behalf, I reflect on a situation which warrants some discussion.
There are some healthcare professionals who, while Mom is pregnant and for follow-up after birth, encourage appointments and answer questions; yet, if there is a loss by or at delivery they stop being accessible after the initial one or two postnatal visits; they refuse to provide a timely medical response.
Yet again, I heard from a Mom who, four months after the birth of her twin survivor, has no word on lab test results in spite of several calls to her doctor’s office. She is afraid to call again because the staff has become cool and abrupt. Another Mom said, “It’s been a year since the autopsy and I still don’t have any results. I’ve had to hire a social worker to follow up on the results because I’m so overwhelmed with grief and anger, I can’t function.” And, from another Mom, “I know the office dreads my call.”
Think of the parents. They are trying to deal with a twin (triplet or quadruplet) survivor(s) [and perhaps other children as well], come to terms with and grieve the death of their baby(ies) and hopefully learn why he/she/they died. After repeated attempts to get information, some parents may be perceived as pushy or emotional, however handling the baby’s(ies) death requires getting report results from their doctor’s office and not making them feel side-lined, minimized or ignored.
We know doctors are busy, but why is it that bereaved parents sometimes cannot get timely feedback on autopsies, lab results from blood work/placental examination or other situations where the medical world explores why the baby(ies) died? Sure, some tests take time; however, initiating a call to the parents at least once in a while, until the answers come in, would be sensible, considerate, and an acknowledgement of the families’ grief and pain.
It’s true, some causes of death cannot be explained and parents may never learn why their baby(ies) died. If this is the case, then don’t those parents still deserve to hear, “In spite of all the tests, we don’t know why your baby(ies) died.”? Surely parents have been through enough already!
Even if certain tests take months for results to come back, let the parents know. Often parents fantasize about why their baby(ies) died, sometimes blaming themselves or each other. Such a situation puts an added strain on the marriage and marriages crack and break. As well, a preoccupation with getting results affects availability and parenting abilities for the surviving children.