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Hospital settles over fetus treatment

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio hospital reached a proposed lawsuit settlement of about $1 million with women who said they were emotionally distressed to learn an employee had stuffed their miscarried or stillborn fetuses into jars for years - citing her religious beliefs - and kept them in hospital storage, instead of medically disposing of them.

Firelands Community Hospital, now known as Firelands Regional Medical Center, reached the agreement after years of litigation with 180 women who filed a class-action lawsuit complaining about how the Sandusky hospital disposed of the fetuses.

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“We’re very happy that we were able to bring this relief to the families,’’ said John Murray, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Court records show that Patricia Lukas, a histologist technician working in the hospital’s morgue, placed 88 fetuses into the same three containers for different time periods between 1988 and 1996. Hospital policy at the time called for the tissue of miscarried or stillborn fetuses to be incinerated or placed in a tissue grinder.

A 2006 judge’s ruling dismissing claims against the hospital said Lukas’s religious beliefs held “that fetal tissue should not be placed in the grinder.’’

Lukas was fired in 1996 when the hospital discovered the practice. The hospital then disposed of the fetuses according to its policy.

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