Thursday, May 24, 2007

A New Look

How do you like The Mommy Blawg's new look? Revka at RS Designs created the custom header for me. She and Linda from Mama’s Coffee Corner are running a contest to launch their blogs (ends today - hurry!) , where you can win a free custom header, a $20 Amazon gift certificate, or a box of Brazillian goodies. Revka's headers are beautiful and her service is great and speedy, so if the look of your blog just screams "free Blogger template", head on over and get yourself something new.

I also updated my links on the right side. I pared down the list of legal blogs and added a section called "Lawyer Moms". If you are a mother and a lawyer (including law student or non-practicing attorney) and blog even a little bit about both, let me know and I'll add your blog to my list.

My next project is to update The Baby Blawg. I want to add a link section there for birth biz blogs, and another for my favorite childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby care websites, as well as recommended reading. That's the plan, anyway.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Placentas, Protests, and Property Rights

Before Anne Swanson gave birth at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, she requested that her placenta be saved so that she could take it home. At the time of discharge, however, the hospital refused to release the placenta to her. According to placenta activist Jodi Selander, "There are no laws in NV that state a hospital can not release a placenta, yet the hospital refused because it 'was not comfortable' doing so." (link)

Swanson is now waging a legal battle against Sunrise for possession of the placenta. The hospital normally keeps placentas in cold storage for three days, then disposes of them. According to Swanson, the hospital has informed her that it will not release the placenta without a court order, and will destroy it on May 15th. A pro-placenta rally was held on Monday, May 7, and supporters are planning a push for legislation, similar to that passed by Hawaii last year, which would require hospitals to release non-infectious placentas to patients on request. The Hawaiian statute states:
§321-30 Human placenta. Upon negative findings of infection or hazard after appropriate testing of the mother, the human placenta may be released by the hospital to the woman from whom it originated or to the woman's designee. The department shall establish a release form which shall stipulate appropriate measures for the safe release of human placenta.
That seems pretty simple and covers all the bases, doesn't it?

I know that stopping the spread of infectious disease is serious business, and proper disposal of hospital waste is an important part of that. We don't want needles and body parts thrown in dumpsters, where they might be discovered by dogs, rats, and homeless people. But look at it this way: Baby comes out of mommy's uterus - baby gets taken home. Placenta comes out of mommy's uterus - placenta gets thrown away. Placenta is infectious waste. Baby isn't. Huh? Yes, I know that the baby is a living, breathing human, and the placenta is an organ. But for some people, placental burial is an important religious or cultural ritual, and for others, it is about having control over one's body and retaining ownership of its products.

Now, to turn to the broader legal question: does a person have a property interest in his or her own cells, organs, or body parts? I'm not going to give this question the full treatment, but the leading case on this issue seems to be Moore v. Regents of University of California, 793 P.2d 479, 51 Cal.3d 120 (1990). In this case, university researchers used tissue taken from Moore's diseased spleen to create a cell line which they later patented. The Supreme Court of California held that Moore did not have property rights to or a financial interest in his cells (Wikipedia). Part of the Court's reasoning was that California statutory law restricts a patient's control over his or her medical waste, citing California Health and Safety Code section 7054.4:
[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law, recognizable anatomical parts, human tissues, anatomical human remains, or infectious waste following conclusion of scientific use shall be disposed of by interment, incineration, or any other method determined by the state department [of health services] to protect the public health and safety."
Of course, each state may come out a little differently on this issue (California Supreme Court decisions not being binding on the rest of us). And even if a person does have an ownership right to their body parts doesn't mean they necessarily have a possessory right to them. As we learn on the first day of property class in law school, property rights are like a bundle of sticks.

If you are finding this fascinating, you may want to read Ownership of Human Tissue: A Proposal for Federal Recognition of Human Research Participants' Property Rights in Their Biological Material, Wash. & Lee L. Rev. (Winter 2004). I didn't - it was too long and I dont' have the time. But I did get out my bluebook for that cite, which I'm hoping makes up for the fact that a cited to a Wiki a couple paragraphs ago.

Anyhow, hope that give you something to - er - chew on.

Diva/Mamma (the go-to blog for this case)
Placenta Benefits
Placenta befouled, mom told (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making pills from placentas (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Action News 13 Las Vegas (video)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

International Midwives Day

Today is International Midwives Day (also variously called "International Day of the Midwife" or "International Midwifery Day"). Call or write you midwife and thank her!

It's a great day to host an event, such as a picnic, lecture, protest, etc. to help raise awareness of midwifery care. The International Confederation of Midwives has some more ideas (.pdf). So if you are part of a consumer, homebirth, or natural parenting group, you might want to start planning something for next year.

The Seattle Midwifery School has information on how you can help a library or bookstore create a display.

Wisconsin has reason to celebrate. Not only did the governor declare May 5th International Midwives' Day, but this week marked the first home delivery by a licenced midwife since that state's newly-enacted regulatory scheme went into effect. Congratulations to Wisconsin midwives and midwifery supporters for all their hard work.

Louisa at Mama (Mid)Wife Madness answers the question "Why does the world need midwives?".