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Perinatal Hospice – a Compassionate Option for Families with Terminally Ill Newborns

Perinatal hospice can be a wonderful tool to help bereaved families with their grief. Perinatal hospice professionals answer questions, help make plans, and provide care and support for both the baby and the family.

Unfortunately, very few families know this option is available, and to date, only one state requires that parents of terminally ill newborns be given the option for perinatal hospice care: Minnesota. The vast majority of parents who find out that their unborn child has a lethal fetal anomaly will not be informed of the option for perinatal hospice and will opt to terminate the pregnancy. In fact, only 20 percent of parents choose to bring their child to term.[1]

In contrast, parents that are informed of the option for supportive perinatal hospice overwhelmingly choose it. The statistics show that 80 percent of parents choose this option when it is given to them.[2]

Americans United for Life has drafted new model legislation entitled the “Perinatal Hospice Information Act” in order to help the states increase awareness of this compassionate option for families of unborn children with lethal fetal anomalies.

[1] M. D’Almeida et al., Perinatal Hospice: Family-Centered Care of the Fetus with a Lethal Condition, 11 J. Amer. Physicians & Surgeons 52 (2006); B.C. Calhoun & N. Hoeldtke, The Perinatal Hospice: Ploughing the Field of Natal Sorrow (2005), available at http://www.choicesmc.org/pages/pregnant/sub/perihospcalhoun1.php (last visited June 17, 2010).

[2] Id.