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ST. ELIZABETH HEALTH CENTER Attorneys apologize for infant death suit



Published: Wed, June 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The couple's lawyer dismissed the complaint once he realized it had no merit.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A New Middletown couple has voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit against St. Elizabeth Health Center after realizing the hospital did nothing wrong after the death of a baby.

The couple's attorneys also apologized to the hospital for any grief the suit caused them.

Rudolph and Tracy Tatar of Deltona Drive filed the suit in March, saying the hospital never gave them a chance to say goodbye to their deceased infant.

Atty. Brian Kopp of Betras, Maruca & amp; Kopp said the suit was filed to protect the couple's rights under the Ohio statute of limitations. Afterward, when he and the family discovered there was no negligence by the hospital, the suit was dropped.

"I did what I was ethically bound to do," Kopp said. "I investigated the complaint, found that it was without merit and dismissed it."

He declined to elaborate on what led the family to file the suit.

The dismissal and apology satisfied the hospital, said Theresa Tonies, compliance officer and regional director of risk management for HM Health Services, the hospital's parent company.

"The apology does vindicate us and helps reduce the hurt feelings experienced by our dedicated nursing staff," Tonies said.

She said the allegations in the suit were "totally false and hurtful to a caring, compassionate staff who did their job to comfort a family."

Troubled birth: According to court records, Tracy Tatar gave birth to twin daughters by Caesarean section in March 1999 at St. Elizabeth. Both babies were born prematurely. One baby survived, but the other died days after her birth.

The suit said hospital staff "disposed, destroyed or otherwise lost the remains" of the deceased infant, preventing the family from conducting a proper burial and otherwise coping with the loss of their daughter.

But in a written statement, hospital officials said immediately after the baby's death, a long-standing hospital program that helps parents deal with the death of an infant was implemented.

Saying goodbye: Through the program, parents are given a chance to see, touch and hold their baby and photos are taken for remembrance. Footprints and a lock of hair from the baby are given to the parents, and the nursing staff compiles a "memory envelope" with a baby blanket, hat and pin.

After being baptized by one of the hospital's priests, the infant's body was released to a local funeral home and services took place March 27, 1999, the statement says.

"Our nurses and entire staff were dismayed by the filing of this case," Patricia Stedman, director of St. Elizabeth's women's and children's services, said. "In an organization that is committed to compassion, human dignity and sacredness of life, the allegations were troubling to all of us."

bjackson@vindy.com




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