Skip to Content

General Laws

Section 202. As used in this section, “fetal death” means death prior to the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a fetus, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, as indicated by the fact that after such expulsion or extraction the fetus does not breathe or show any other evidence of life such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles. “Fetal death” does not include an abortion as defined in section twelve K of chapter one hundred and twelve.

When a fetal death occurs in a hospital, if a fetus is of twenty weeks gestation or more, or a weight of three hundred and fifty grams or more, the physician in attendance shall prepare and transmit a report of such death to the person in charge of the hospital or his designated representative, who shall file such report with the commissioner within ten days after such death.

When a fetal death occurs outside a hospital, if a fetus is of twenty weeks gestation or more, or a weight of three hundred and fifty grams or more, the physician in attendance at or immediately after delivery shall prepare and file a report of such death with said commissioner within ten days after such death.

When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance at or immediately after delivery or when the fetal death may have occurred from violence or unnatural causes, if a fetus is of twenty weeks gestation or more, or a weight of three hundred and fifty grams or more, the medical examiner shall investigate the cause and shall prepare and file a report of such death with said commissioner within ten days after such death.

Said commissioner may compile an annual statistical report of fetal deaths, and may make such further use of such records as he deems useful for administrative and research purposes connected with health programs and population studies.

Fetal death reports shall be confidential and shall be released by the department only upon written request of the parent, his or her guardian, executor, attorney, or any other person designated by the parent in writing. Such reports may also be released to the National Center for Health Statistics in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and to persons authorized by said commissioner under section twenty-four A of this chapter to conduct research studies. The department may release copies of such reports, or information contained therein, to other persons only in a manner which does not allow identification of the parents.

Disposition of fetal remains shall be made at the direction of the parent in either manner as hereinafter provided: the remains may be buried, entombed or cremated in accordance with chapter one hundred and fourteen and a copy of a report required by this section shall constitute the certificate required by section forty-five of said chapter one hundred and fourteen. Said copy shall, within thirty days after the issuance of a burial permit, be destroyed by the local board of health; or in all other circumstances, the fetal remains shall be disposed of by the hospital or as directed by the attending physician or medical examiner in a manner which does not create a hazard to the public health. Such disposition shall not be subject to the provisions of said chapter one hundred and fourteen. Before disposition, the physician or person in charge of the hospital shall ensure that the parent is informed of his right to direct either burial, entombment or cremation of the fetal remains, or disposal of the remains by the hospital or physician. Before disposition, the parent shall be informed in writing of the hospital policy relating to disposal of fetal remains, and shall be informed of the availability of a chaplain if any for counsel.

The provisions of chapter forty-six regarding the reporting of deaths shall not apply to fetal deaths.

A physician or medical examiner neglecting or refusing to file a report required by this section, or who makes a false statement therein, shall be subject to a fine of not more than fifty dollars.

The commissioner shall prescribe the form for the making of reports under this section, which shall be consistent with the United States standard report of fetal death.

Error