A New York hospital has been ordered to explain what happened to the remains of a stillborn baby that went missing more than three years ago, as a judge ruled the grieving mother has a right to know why she’s been unable to lay her baby to rest, court papers show.
Andrea Lewis was 22 weeks into her pregnancy when she gave birth to a stillborn child, whom she named Avery, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on March 28, 2014, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Lewis prayed with a pastor and relatives and held a religious service for the child, whom she held, caressed, kissed and said she loved, the papers said.
Hospital employees gave Lewis, now 39, a memory box containing the baby’s keepsakes, including the deceased child’s footprints, and said to let them know when she was ready to send the remains for the autopsy.
Lewis handed over her baby that same day. It was the last time Lewis saw her child.
In her lawsuit, Lewis claimed the hospital knew she was planning to lay her baby to rest after the autopsy was completed, as she had asked staffers on April 1, 2014 for information on funeral homes and memorials as well as funeral services.
When she reached out to the hospital again on April 2, she was told that the autopsy typically takes two weeks, but she was never told that she must decide what to do with her child’s remains by a certain date or that the hospital planned to dispose of them under any circumstance, the suit said.
On April 8, Lewis found out that her child’s body was missing, but she was unable to get answers from the hospital about what happened, the suit said.
“Due to the defendant hospital’s negligence, gross negligence, carelessness, recklessness, violation of the applicable law, and violation of its own policies and procedures,” Lewis was deprived of getting to touch her child, hold her child, talk to her child and ultimately hold a memorial for and cremate her child, the suit said.
Lewis, who said she has suffered “grievous mental anguish, suffering and sorrow,” is suing for unspecified damages.
In a March 23 decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lucy Billings ordered the hospital to answer Lewis' questions about what happened to her child within 20 days of the ruling, which was made public Sunday.
Lewis has the "right to immediate possession of her deceased child’s remains," according to state law, the ruling said.
If the hospital fails to meet Billings’ deadline, Lewis will automatically win her lawsuit, Billings wrote.
The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment by InsideEdition.com, but in court papers has denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit.