September 4, 2008
Hospital Stops Handling Birth Announcements
By FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
In a move aimed at preventing infant abductions, Maine's largest hospital has stopped collecting information about births and passing it on to newspapers.The recent decision by Maine Medical Center in Portland comes 12 years after Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor instituted the same policy.
Maine Medical Center's policy change was not in response to a specific incident but rather to a national trend as hospitals focus on the safety of new parents and babies because of rare and high profile abductions.
EMMC, the largest hospital in Greater Bangor, stopped releasing birth information in 1996 after such an abduction, according to hospital spokeswoman Jill McDonald.
"Parents can still do it on their own, although we don't recommend it," McDonald said Wednesday, referring to releasing information.
Data compiled by the Center for Missing & Exploited Children over a 25-year period ending in July found that 254 infants younger than 6 months were abducted.
The only Maine abduction during that period was in Bangor 12 years ago, when a young woman from East Corinth posed as an EMMC employee and left the hospital with another mother's newborn son.
Nicole Yablonka took an infant boy from a woman who had just endured a traumatic labor and delivery, according to previously published reports. Yablonka was found a short time later and the baby was returned to its parents unharmed, but the incident rocked the Bangor community and later resulted in the policy change at EMMC
Yablonka was sentenced to serve one year in prison on a charge of Class A kidnapping.
In addition to Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, also in Portland, said it likely would examine its policy of releasing birth information in the near future.
However, there are still several area hospitals that regularly distribute birth notices to media outlets, including the Bangor Daily News.
Asked whether she was surprised that other hospitals had not changed their policies sooner, McDonald said she didn't want to pass judgement. She also declined to speculate whether EMMC would have changed its own policy had an abduction not occurred there.
"The reality is that it did happen and we responded by doing what was right for our patients and for keeping them secure," McDonald said. "It's working well."
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