Generic mother and child. Photo Contributed
Generic mother and child. Photo Contributed Contributed

Sensitivity needed in stillbirth investigations: professor

HOSPITALS and perinatal pathologists are best placed to investigate the deaths of babies during labour.

That is the message from Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council member David Ellwood.

The Griffith University obstetrics and gynaecology professor said recent media reports saying he supported coroners investigating the deaths were wrong.

"I was asked about the role of the coroner in investigating stillbirths - I simply reflected the fact that there have been discussions in various forums about the possibility of the coroner being involved," Prof Ellwood said.

"I'm not sure it is the best way to investigate stillbirths."

Prof Ellwood said coronial investigators might not be experts in the area of perinatal mortality and the families would lose access to their child's body during the process.

"Once you go down the coronial route there's a whole lot of procedures and different processes that may sometimes not be helpful for families who have experienced stillbirths," he said.

"Coroners' reports often take a long time to prepare.

"The baby is taken away and is not there for the family to spend time with and to start the grieving process."

Prof Ellwood said hospitals were well placed to investigate the deaths.

"It's absolutely vital to know exactly what happened,'' he said.

At least one-third of perinatal deaths would never be explained, Prof Ellwood said.

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