HONOLULU (AP) _ Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill Friday allowing hospitals to release the placenta, the organ that connects mother and child in the womb, to a birth mother.

The legislation came after several Hawaiian couples found they would not be allowed to take the placenta _ known as iewe in Hawaiian _ from the hospital to perform a traditional ceremony.

In Hawaiian belief, the iewe is considered a part of the child. Ceremonies in the islands include burying the iewe under a tree, so that the growth of the tree can be used to better understand psychological and spiritual changes in the child.

But state rules regulating blood-bearing products prohibited families from taking the placenta from the hospital, the state Department of Health said.

The conflict resulted in a federal lawsuit that was later dismissed.

Under the new law, the placenta could be released to the mother, or someone else she has chosen, after a test of the mother confirms that the placenta doesn't carry an infectious disease.

The law is a first in the United States.

There are currently no state laws addressing the cultural need to take placentas from hospitals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


On the Nets:

Hawaii Legislature, HB2057, Act 12: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/