Knox County Regional Forensic Center says they only accept medical examiner’s cases. A spokesperson told WATE that means those are any cases of deaths that are sudden, unnatural, unexpected, unexplained or that require further investigation.
Typically, a medical examiner is not involved when a baby dies before birth. However, some fetal deaths become cases for medical examiners if the death is believed to have had an “unnatural cause.”
The spokesperson said that drugs are involved in many of the stillborn cases at the forensic center, but not all of them.
Two of the four babies on Knox County’s unclaimed bodies list have full names, two are known only by their last names.
The four stillborn babies died when their mothers were too far along to be considered as having a miscarriage but were not yet far enough along for the babies to survive outside the womb.
The three died in the second trimester, between 21 and 27 weeks gestation, according to reports. In two cases, the mothers left the hospital and did not wish to make arrangements, the spokesperson explained.
For the third baby, it was discovered that the stillborn was a medical examiner’s case after a funeral home requested a cremation permit. The forensics center did an autopsy on the boy. Then, family decided to use a different funeral home, according to the spokesperson. A week later, that funeral home called the forensic center because the family had stopped taking their calls and had left the body at the funeral home.
The forensics center spokesperson said funeral homes are not normally allowed to return remains, however, because it was a fetus, it was allowed. After the family did not take the forensic center’s calls, the stillborn was cremated and he joined the list of unclaimed dead.
The fourth case was different. It was not a medical examiner’s case.
According to the spokesperson, Knox County Regional Forensic Center was contacted by a funeral home who picked up the stillborn from the hospital. After the boy’s family did not come back for him, the forensic center took him in as unclaimed.
The next oldest individuals on the unclaimed list are 22 years old, and the oldest is 89. To read more stories about East Tennessee’s unclaimed or forgotten dead, click here.