Couple look for answers after Edmundston hospital loses stillborn fetus

Couple look for answers after Edmundston hospital loses stillborn fetus

A woman who gave birth to a stillborn fetus at the Edmundston Regional Hospital is looking for answers after the hospital threw it away.

Noémie Shareck, who now lives in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., but is from New Brunswick, gave birth to the stillborn fetus on March 28 when she was 20 weeks pregnant.

Shareck and her husband, Pierre-Luc Richard, who knew they were having a girl, had planned to cremate the remains and place them in an urn. They were shocked when the hospital told them staff couldn't find the fetus. 

"[The hospital] said April 5, to the parents, that the fetus had been destroyed," said Marc Bellemare, a lawyer representing the couple.

"They said that they lost it. They said that somebody threw it [in] the garbage or the crematorium."

Can't sleep

Bellemare said the parents are suffering anxiety and problems sleeping after the ordeal.

"They're waiting for answers right now," said Bellemare.

In a statement to CBC News, Vitalité Health Network CEO Gilles Lanteigne acknowledged an error was made at the morgue and the fetus was lost.

"We express our greatest apologies to the family and offer them all the comfort they need to get through this heartbreaking loss," said Lanteigne.

"Although the network has rigorous internal mechanisms, it seems that gaps are still present."

Reviewing procedures

Lanteigne said Vitalité is now reviewing its processes to prevent "similar situations from happening again."

Bellemare said Vitalité has not explained to the family what happened, and the cause of death is unclear.

Statistics Canada considers a stillbirth to be any fetal death that occurs regardless of the duration of pregnancy. The  World Health Organization only considers a fetal death after 28 weeks to be a stillbirth. Before that, the WHO considers it a miscarriage.

Bellemare said he hasn't spoken directly with Vitalité but has sent a letter to the health authority and expects to hear back this week.

Bellemare said the couple have not filed a lawsuit against Vitalité.

"It begins with a letter only, and after we'll see," said Bellemare.