Questions surround delay in Menasha baby death notification

MENASHA – The investigation into a newborn baby’s death in Menasha could take weeks.

That’s because some evidence in the case is no longer available.

A baby boy was delivered at 29 weeks by emergency C-section at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah on April 26.

The boy died later that day.

The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office says toxicology samples and other possible evidence was not kept.

Police say they weren’t notified that hospital staff had concerns about how the baby died until this past Saturday. That’s the same day as the infant’s funeral.

The job of determining how the hours-old infant died is up to Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby. But he says because of the delay that might not be possible.

“When they preserve the body there is an embalming process and that might take away certain things that we are looking for, other things that happen sometimes in a hospital setting is toxicology, the umbilical cord, different things can be done away with before we get a chance to get that,” said Busby.

The baby died at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Neenah. Busby says May 3 someone from the hospital contacted Menasha police who then called the coroner’s office. That was a week after the baby died.

“Having the information at the time it should have been reported is very crucial in an investigation,” Busby said.

Because of that delay and the timing of when police were called, investigators had to speak to the family the day of the funeral and take the baby’s body for an autopsy. Police say the funeral was not disrupted and investigators waited in another room at the funeral home to speak with the family after the service.

Busby says the entire situation is unfortunate for everyone involved. But he adds he’s confident it was just a mistake.

“The doctors and nurses in this area have been wonderful, we have great working relationships and I think it just fell through the cracks,” said Busby.

Children’s Hospital declined to comment on our questions about the delay, instead releasing a statement saying, “The loss of a child, under any circumstance, is devastating. The need to protect patient confidentiality prohibits us from further comment on this case.”

State statute requires the coroner’s office to be notified of any suspicious death. The penalty for not doing so is a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

The burial for the baby has been postponed pending the outcome of the investigation.

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