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Parents discover their stillborn babies are alive four months after birth

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 29 January 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:248
  1. Romania Ioana Vlad
  1. Iasi

    Two babies born alive were declared dead at the Ploiesti maternity hospital in Prahova county, Romania. Almost four months after the parents were informed that their babies had died, the local authorities asked them to go back to the maternity hospital and take home their “abandoned” children.

    This situation comes as a result of a practice dating back to the communist period, when it was common not to register babies who weighed less than 1000 g during the first 10 days of life, in order to have a low perinatal mortality. Any baby who died in these 10 days was considered an “aborted fetus” and registered accordingly. If a baby survived it was registered as newborn.

    The two babies, a boy and a girl, were born prematurely in September 2003, weighing less than 1000 g at birth. Because of a failure of communication among staff in the maternity department, the babies' parents were told that their children were dead.

    In January 2003 staff of the Child Protection Agency of Prahova county went to Ploiesti maternity hospital to check the situation of abandoned children. They discovered that, in the case of two of the six abandoned babies, the families were easy to trace. On contacting the parents the authorities were astonished to hear that they had been told that their children were dead.

    At the moment, maternity wards and hospitals are meant to follow the European law on registering births. If a baby weighs more than 500 g, is older than 24 weeks, and breathes at least once, it must be registered as newborn even if it lives for only a few hours. But in some Romanian maternity wards these new agreements are not always respected.

    The local authorities have started an investigation at Ploiesti maternity hospital for negligence at work, false information in official documents, and the use of false documents. There were speculations in the Romanian media about baby trafficking, but, according to a press release from the Romanian Ministry of Health, the inspections showed that the incidents were a result of confusion and lack of proper communication between the maternity sections.

    All the staff in the neonatology department were censured. A decision is still awaited as to what steps will be taken against the two doctors who signed the death certificates, Dr Iancu Georgeta and Dr Pantelimon Marinescu.

    The baby boy's parents, Ramona and Cristian Ionita, were happy to take their child home. The baby girl remains in the care of social workers as her presumed parents, Cristina Czuli and Lucian Soare, asked for DNA tests to be carried out to confirm their parenthood.

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