Controversy over parents being filmed for stillbirth documentary

A hospital has reportedly allowed cameras to be installed in a maternity hospital, filming parents while they are given news on the fate of their unborn babies, in the name of breaking the silence around stillbirth


Tommy's News 30/11/2017 

Yesterday, The Metro UK reported that cameras were being allowed to film women in the exact moment they were told that their unborn baby had died. It was revealed that in a dark scan room of this particular maternity hospital, footage was being collected to be featured in a Channel 4 TV documentary about stillbirth. 

The news that families are being captured on film while in this most vulnerable state has been met with criticism from the public and members of the midwife community. The metro reported that parents were concerned with the lack of notice that filming of this nature is taking place, as A4 printed posters pinned up in the unit were the only indication such activities are ongoing. 

Hospital staff have defended the decision, saying the A4 posters are enough to alert patients and warn couples that they were being filmed and provided ‘adequate’ notice. But in a city of over 500,000 CCTV cameras, where signs such as "smile, you're on CCTV" are common place, do these sort of posters get the attention they require, or do they naturally become part of the white noise?

This controversy opens up the question, of where we draw the line between creating much needed awareness of this often taboo subject and allowing women the space to speak out when they are ready and not a moment sooner. 

Here at Tommy's, while we appreciate the Hospital and Channel 4's intention to shed light upon this often taboo subject, we also know that stillbirth is one of the most devastating experiences any family can go through. 

Mother of three, 9-week pregnant Tara Bungard, was receiving treatment when she noticed the cameras and a microphone dangling above the bed. On the project, she said:

"At no point were these cameras pointed out to me. My baby was fine- but what if it has been the other way around? I cannot imagine in anyway how it ethically allowed to have those moments filmed and kept.They are waiting till you have had awful news and then ask.”

An obstetrics consultant at the hospital voiced support of the documentary, stating that the aim of the project was to break the taboo surrounding stillbirth. Speaking to the BBC Radio, he added; 

"Unless we get this out to the public conversation it will go no further, it will remain taboo. Staff are not advised to say there is cameras in rooms but if patients mention the notice they will happily talk about it."

A spokesman for the hospital told the;

"We took the decision to participate in the documentary as a direct result of feedback from women who had been through stillbirth and said there was not enough information on this difficult but important issue – that it is seen as a taboo subject."

A Channel 4 spokesman added that no footage would be viewed or downloaded without the "express permission" of the parents'. 

While we appreciate that the intention was to use this footage to generate much needed stillbirth awareness, in order to help break the silence, we need to ensure this is being done in a way that parents and families are allowed to make the decision to actively participate in awareness when they are ready, without pressure to do so.

We are here to support families who are going through this very difficult time. For more information or support on Stillbirth see here. 

See the original Metro article here. 

Read more about Tommy's research into Stillbirth Prevention

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