fetus/POC policy

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Date:Fri, 22 Oct 1999 12:42:59 -0400 (EDT)
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K. Zajic, histology supervisor in West Palm Beach FL (ODDBALSTER@aol.com) 
asks what to do about requests by families to view fetuses that have already 
been fixed in formalin.

I don't see that the minimal formaldehyde exposure here is a problem, 
assuming you get the fetus out beforehand, give it a thorough washing, pat it 
dry, and display it on a clean surgical towel, or better a receiving blanket. 
If you're still troubled by the formaldehyde, you could exhibit the fetus in 
the pathologist's grossing station. I think the actual viewing is a 
responsibility of the nursing service - I don't see why you should have to 
undertake this stressful situation. 

If you actually have to release the fetus to the family, it would be better 
to get the aid of a funeral director. Otherwise, the fetus should be 
transferred from formalin to 70% alcohol before giving it to the family. Once 
again, this is a nursing service responsibility.

Writing a procedure is an excellent idea, but I don't see why your risk 
management people need to be further involved unless they want to be notified 
about each episode. 

Something you should be aware of - anti-abortion crazies will steal fetuses 
if they can, and any recognizable fetus is a security problem. A pathologist 
of my acquaintance actually dealt with a situation where such a crazy took 
down the identification of the patient from the pathology specimen label, and 
proceded to harass the grieving mother for aborting her baby!

Bob Richmond
Samurai Pathologist
Knoxville TN

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