In September, we were lucky enough to secure Lydia Judge-Kronis, Senior Mortuary Manager at Great Ormond Street Hospital, to speak at the Sands/Bliss/RCM conference held in London.  She presented alongside Alix Henley, adviser to Sands and co-author of the Sands Post mortem consent package on the subject of ‘Post mortems: caring for parents’.  The conference was a huge success and well attended by healthcare professionals.  Lydia’s views on the care of babies during the post mortem process were particularly compelling and we thought we would share some of them with you.

What was your key message at the conference?

Lydia: That a baby who comes to us is always treated as somebody’s baby and the importance of that.  It doesn’t matter how young or old the baby is, he or she is treated as an individual and with the utmost care and respect.

We regard the mortuary as another ward in the hospital.  We keep the lights on 24 hours a day so it is never dark. We think of our ‘patients’ as the most vulnerable in the hospital and as such we have incredibly robust security systems so they are completely safe.

We follow the details the family has requested; toys, ornaments, letters - any items that arrive with the baby - are kept private and safe so they can be returned.

We also make it our business to know all the funeral directors we work with personally.  They form an extended part of our team and we witness how incredibly caring they are when looking after a baby.

Working this way is something I feel strongly about and advocate in every hospital.

Why is it important that midwives and other healthcare professionals are aware of this level of care?

Lydia: Our midwife and healthcare colleagues can play a vital role in helping reassure parents about the post mortem process. It’s important for parents to know who will look after their baby.  I urge healthcare staff caring for a bereaved family to ring the mortuary team and get to know them. 

Equally, as a council member of the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (APPT), I encourage Anatomical Pathology Technologists (APTs) to develop the relationships they have with other healthcare staff and share their natural ability to work with the bereaved.

Working in unison benefits everybody. My aim at Great Ormond Street is for the staff I work with to be able to say ‘Lydia will be looking after your baby’ and I see no reason why this couldn’t be the same in other hospitals.

Why do you feel so passionately about this?

Lydia:  If working in unison with our colleagues we can reassure parents that their baby will be cared for with compassion and kindness, we can hopefully alleviate some of their worries about what will happen to their baby.  It’s just basic humanity.

We are grateful to Lydia for sharing her views and commend her compassion.   At Sands we know that a common reaction of parents whose baby has died is to ask ‘why?’.  An answer is not always possible but a post mortem is the single most useful investigation in providing information about why a baby was stillborn or died soon after birth and may provide important information for future pregnancies.  Understandably parents have fears and worries about what will happen to their baby if they decide to have a post mortem but perhaps knowing that people like Lydia are looking after their baby will make it easier to make the decision.  In turn perhaps they will get the answer they need and we will all learn more to prevent such tragedies in the future.