A bereavement photographer in Texas was fired after telling a mom carrying a child with anencephaly that she had other options beyond just abortion. Jennie Dune said she was told by St. Luke’s Hospital in Woodlands that she was no longer welcome as a newborn or bereavement photographer, claiming she pressured a mom whose baby had anencephaly. Dune herself delivered all six of her children there, including two who died after birth of anencephaly, which is what led her to work in bereavement photography.
St. Luke’s addressed the situation in a statement, and claimed that Dune gave a patient medical advice. “We’re aware of a situation at CHI St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital involving a patient, a physician, and a representative of a company that provides photography services to parents of newborns under a written agreement with the hospital,” the statement read. “The agreement does not authorize the company or its employees to provide medical advice or to express company or personal views on any subject to any patient, whether those views are consistent with those of the hospital or not. The hospital’s actions in this matter were consistent with its rights under the agreement, and did not include termination of employment for an employee of the photography company.”
Dune, however, said that was not true.
“[I] did NOT give out ANY MEDICAL ADVICE!” she wrote on Facebook. “I met a mom for coffee on my day off, not near the hospital, [I] told her her rights as a patient in the state of Texas. I suggest you speak to the mom in question before standing by a doctor who does not support informed consent. And Judy, the director of woman’s services told the patient she should call me ‘because I often support moms in this situation.’ Also, this mom was not yet a patient of the hospital. She was just a mom facing a life limiting diagnosis.”
The woman was allegedly being told her best option was a late-term abortion procedure which involves injecting the baby into the heart with a fatal shot of either digoxin or potassium chloride. After several days, the mother will deliver the body of her dead baby.
Dune detailed the interactions she had with both the mother and the hospital in an interview with Church Militant. She said the attending physician, Dr. Sara Gibson, did not tell the mother — nicknamed “Sandy” — of her option to choose what is termed “compassionate induction.” This involves inducing labor, delivering the baby alive, and allowing the mother to have as much time with her baby as possible before he or she passes. However, Dune claimed “Sandy” told her she was frustrated with her lack of options, and that the only choices Dr. Gibson gave her were either getting an abortion, or carrying her baby to term. “Sandy claimed Dr. Gibson pushed her toward the KCL [injection] procedure — since she didn’t want to go full-term — and when Sandy did not show up for her KCL appointment, Dr. Gibson was angry and at some point in the exchange called Sandy a ‘liar,'” Church Militant reported.
Compassionate induction is controversial, as the National Catholic Bioethics Center makes it clear that “any act that directly causes or hastens the death of the child” is unacceptable according to Church teaching. Such an induction would only be considered allowable in very specific circumstances, usually in which the mother’s life is at immediate risk.
Dune told Sandy to speak with Judy Brown, director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Saint Luke’s, about possibly opting for a compassionate induction. “In a subsequent meeting with Judy and Gibson, the doctor was CLEARLY furious at Jennie’ for explaining Sandy’s rights and options,” Church Militant said. Dune was then fired.
For her part, Sandy went through with “compassionate induction” at a different hospital, where she told Dune she was treated with “respect and dignity,” and is grieving her child’s death. But with the loss of her job, Dune said she is not only now struggling to make ends meet, the experience has been heartbreaking for her personally.
“This whole situation has been a slap in the face for me,” she told Church Militant. “I have referred many patients to [St. Luke’s] and have dedicated countless hours as a volunteer, serving the infant loss community there. I have often said St. Luke’s in the Woodlands is my happy place. It’s the only place in the world I have seen all six of my children. That has all changed now because of one doctor’s lack of compassion and respect for informed consent.”
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