1. Doyle, Melissa
  2. Moran, Hannah
  3. Shadduck, Marie
  4. Walsh, Karen

Article Content

Picking through the remains of a 12-week fetus after dilation and curettage presents a rather disturbing image, we thought as we read Susan Perry's Reflections ("What Remains," January). As senior nursing students, we recognize the need for keepsakes and burials for full-term stillbirths, but is it fitting for a nurse to prepare a memorial for a 12-week fetus? It appears that many nurses and parents who have experienced fetal loss say yes.


For example, Marie Gill, RN, C, a staff nurse at the Birthing Center at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital in Brattleboro, Vermont, has been pursuing bereavement training for her work with families who experience early fetal loss.1 She says of the loss of a fetus before 20 weeks' gestation that "parents may choose to have the hospital dispose of the products of conception, but many of them regret that decision[horizontal ellipsis]. When I interact with them later on during home-health visits, I hear statements like, 'I wish I knew where my baby's remains are.'" Gill's work includes providing arrangements for cremation and a final resting place for the cremated remains.


Our feelings of trepidation changed to admiration for Perry. She and Gill are examples of nurses who understand the patient's possibly deep feelings of loss. Perry admits that she took a chance when she made those tiny footprints, but she could sense what the grieving parents needed. In the end, they had only their memories to take home. Nurses can ensure that those memories include sensitivity, compassion, and understanding.


Melissa Doyle


Hannah Moran


Marie Shadduck


Karen Walsh


Milton, MA




1. Keefe S. Saying goodbye: Nurses help families cope with fetal loss. ADVANCE for Nurses 2008;10(4):31. [Context Link]

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