HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hawaiian Birth Ritual Gets Legislative Support

From the CDC's Public Health Law Newsletter:

“Hawaiian parents seek right for birth ritual”

Associated Press     (04/16/06)     Tara Godvin

Hawaii legislators passed a unique bill after a hospital refused to give Kalehua and Kihapai Krug the placenta of their newborn daughter. The Krugs asked the hospital for permission to take the placenta, which is considered part of the child in traditional Hawaiian belief, but hospital officials said state rules prevented it. The traditional Hawaiian birth ritual involves planting the placenta in the earth, along with a tree that is observed over time and thought to reflect psychological and spiritual changes in the child. The hospital has frozen the placenta pending resolution of the issue. “That’s what they don’t understand. This is a part of my child in essence being held captive kidnapped,” said Mr. Krug. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, no states currently have laws explicitly addressing the cultural practice, although some states, such as California, allow hospitals to set their own policies on the matter. The Hawaii rule prohibiting the practice dates back to 1990, and the state department of health was not initially aware of the conflict between the rule and the tradition. “The rules are in place for the health and safety of the public. And unfortunately this was an unforeseen consequence of those rules,” said state Health Director Chiyome Fukino. Hawaii state legislators, with the support of the State Health Department, have now passed a bill that would allow the placenta to be released to the birth parents.

The Hawaii law is HB2057 [text], signed into law on April 21.  I wonder what Tom Cruise makes of all this: [tm]

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