Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mothers Frustrated by Delays in Stillbirth Research

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mothers Frustrated by Delays in Stillbirth Research

Article excerpt

One by one, in often emotional and blunt testimony, mothers who lost children to stillbirth questioned why nothing appears to have been done to put into practice a law that requires state health officials to track such deaths and mandates that hospitals treat families with sensitivity.

They came away without many answers after a Senate Health Committee hearing where state health officials -- the people charged with implementing the 2-year-old law -- weren't invited.

"People come up to me and say ... I haven't even heard of this bill," said Debra Haine, a Maplewood woman about a law named after her stillborn daughter that was signed by Governor Christie in January 2014.

"It's very sad. I've come across people who think that this is a beautiful, amazing piece of legislation," Haine said Monday after testifying before the Senate Health Committee. "But [they say] there have never been any regulations given to us ... so we don't know what direction we're supposed to go."

The law -- dubbed the Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act -- requires hospitals to conduct fetal autopsies and report findings to a statewide database so researchers can find ways to prevent or reduce stillbirths. The law also requires state health officials to develop policies so that health care providers treat families with sensitivity when a child is stillborn.

But Haine, one of several women who testified Monday, said she's frustrated at how many provisions have yet to be implemented two years after the bill became a state law.

Lorraine Ash, an Allendale woman who wrote a book called "Life Touches Life: A Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing," questioned why the state has not yet collected a database of the 900 stillborn babies in New Jersey each year.

"What's the holdup?" she asked. "We know what we have to do. The U.K. [United Kingdom] keeps such a database. All of Canada keeps such a database. Why don't we?"

The law gave health officials two years in which to create the database.

A spokeswoman for the health department said officials are working with stakeholders to implement the program.

"As part of this process, the department has found that many hospitals already have policies and procedures for families experiencing a stillbirth," spokeswoman Dawn Thomas said in an email. …

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