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Fetus Identified As Misplaced Stillborn Infant

October 15, 1986

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The mother of a stillborn fetus that was accidentally put through a hospital laundry and later mistaken for that of a monkey is not convinced the remains are her baby’s, her lawyer says.

Officials said Tuesday that the tiny body, which went through a washer and dryer, was the remains of the daughter of Constance Lowder, who delivered the baby at Mercy Hospital in August three months premature.

Ms. Lowder’s attorney, Joseph Ludwig, said she will not accept the remains for burial until she has no doubts they are her daughter’s.

″What disturbs me and Constance is the fact that the feet of the remains are 40 percent smaller than the footprints on the birth records at the hospital,″ Ludwig said.

Ms. Lowder, 37, of Wexford, gave birth Aug. 5 to a stillborn baby weighing less than 1 pound and less than 8 inches long, officials said. The body was wrapped in a blanket and taken to the hospital morgue for an autopsy, said Sister Joanne Marie Andiorio, the hospital’s chief executive.

A security officer cleaning the morgue thought the blanket was empty and sent it to the laundry, where the blanket and fetus were washed and dried, she said. The fetus was discovered soon afterward.

Nine experts from around the country, including an anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution, identified the fetus as that of a monkey. The laundry is used by hospitals and the University of Pittsburgh, which conducts research with monkeys.

The experts later said they had erred, a mistake Allegheny County Coroner Joshua Perper called understandable.

″The remains of a monkey and a human fetus look similar,″ he said. ″The similarities were magnified by the fact that the fetus went through the high temperature of washing and drying.″

Earlier this month, Perper criticized Mercy for a lack of communication with his office and a delay in disclosing all the facts. On Tuesday, however, he said he was satisified with Mercy’s explanation and is closing the case.

No disciplinary action is planned by the hospital, Sister Andiorio said.

″It was a real innocent act,″ she said. ″The people who were involved are likewise devastated.″

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