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Program Expansion

Fetal Death

Legislation and Fetal Death Documentation


Although no standard protocol exists to assess fetal death, there are several models such as the Wisconsin Stillbirth Service Project (WiSSP). In 1983, medical geneticist and stillbirth father Richard M. Pauli began the WiSSP Program, one of the first efforts to establish a hospital protocol to uniformly assess what happens to stillborn babies on a case-by-case basis. Today, WiSSP is affiliated with more than 70 hospitals in Wisconsin.

Legislation has been directed at treating fetal deaths the same as live births or infant deaths in terms of data collection and documentation. Although States issue a report of fetal death or certificate of fetal death, few require a certificate of birth for a stillborn infant.

Advocacy groups such as the National Stillbirth Society have worked actively to mobilize parents in all States to push for the legislation. Arizona became the first State to issue a certificate of birth for a stillborn infant. Certificates for a stillbirth are issued in Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Utah and Virginia.

As of 2004, 15 States have passed legislation that gives stillbirth parents the option of obtaining a stillbirth certificate in addition to a fetal death certificate. To many stillbirth parents, receiving this certificate makes a positive psychological difference because it acknowledges their baby’s life, not just his or her death.