Regarding the WRCB-TV (NBC affiliate) report on Ms. Melvina Brown and her deceased infant, which aired Monday, November 14, a response from Erlanger officials appeared on air November 15 and is summarized in the statement below:
We are extremely sorry for the loss Ms. Brown suffered, and were pleased to learn that five funeral homes have contacted WRCB-TV since the story first aired to offer free burial services.
Several news reports based on this story have erroneously reported that Ms. Brown “was sent home with the remains of her infant because she could not afford burial costs.”
This is not accurate.
Disposition of fetal remains at any hospital is the decision of the parents. In Tennessee, babies who die before birth and weigh less than 350 grams can be disposed of by the hospital if that is what the parents choose. In the event of a live birth, state laws prohibit disposal of the remains at the hospital. The family is given the option of leaving the remains at the hospital while making arrangements with a funeral home – or they can opt to take the remains home for a private burial, adhering to county regulations. The types of containers holding fetal remains vary from hospital to hospital, but this is not an uncommon practice.
Ms. Brown, whose infant survived briefly outside the womb, was advised of these options, given a list of funeral homes to take home, and signed paperwork indicating she preferred to take the infant remains with her. Many mothers over the years have chosen this option, grateful for the opportunity to do so.
The staff at Erlanger did not refuse to hold and store the remains because Ms. Brown was unable to afford funeral expenses.
She had two patient advocates with her throughout her hospital stay, and a single dedicated caregiver for four hours following the death of her premature infant.
Erlanger is committed to providing clear written and verbal information for indigent patients who feel they cannot afford a proper burial for loved ones in the future. We will continue to provide families with a list of funeral homes, but in the future list those which will do this at a low cost or free.