Matara hospital rocks parents’ world misplacing stillborn

All these new items purchased in anticipation of nurturing a baby and becoming a mother seem to be remnants of a world that has crashed on Kavindya Madushani on hearing of the death of her first child at the New District General Hospital, Matara 

(Pic by Kithsiri De Mel) 

Stillbirth certificate


Kavindya Madushani and her husband Sajith Chathura from Kotawila, Weligama were anticipating the birth of their firstborn with much hopes and dreams. But their world came to a standstill after May 22, when the hospital staff at the New District General Hospital, Matara, popularly known as ‘Labeema’ failed to show them the body of their stillborn child. Contradictions and communication gaps in mentioning what happened to the infant’s body complicated matters to the point that the Health Ministry itself launched an investigation to determine what had actually gone wrong. 


Contradictory statements 

Like on any other day, Madushani had visited her consultant gynaecologist for a regular checkup on May 22. But she had noticed that there were no movements. Once Madushani complained of no movements, the doctor had immediately requested her to get admitted to the New District General Hospital, Matara. 

“The doctor had told my mother that there is a risk to the baby’s life,” said Madushani in an interview with the Daily Mirror. “He said that the baby’s heart had stopped beating. The Hospital confirmed it once I got admitted on the same day. Thereafter the Hospital staff asked me to write a consent form to allow them to remove the dead foetus out of the womb. Two days after I got admitted, the foetus was removed around 2.42am on May 24. I then requested them to keep the body until the father arrived later that morning, but they didn’t allow anyone of us to see the body. But when my husband once again requested to see the body, the hospital overseers had requested him to obtain a stillborn certificate. When he obtained the certificate the staff had requested him to go to the Municipal Council and get it signed by the registrar, allocate a grave to dump the body and make necessary payments and submit the documents,” said Madushani.

On May 25, Madushani was discharged and when they requested for the body the hospital staff had claimed that they don’t have the body of the baby. “They had allegedly discarded the body without informing us so we requested them to bring the body back. When we called the Public Health Inspector (PHI) he said that they cannot retrieve the body as it had already been buried. We continued to pressure them as we wanted to see the body of the child. Then the police arrived and requested us to file a complaint against the two hospital overseers. At that instance one overseer asked us to decline from filing a complaint as the infant’s body is already being brought




back from Colombo. If the PHI said that the body was already buried, then how is it that the same body was being brought back from Colombo,” Chathura questioned. 

“These contradictions in their own responses made things more complicated and suspicious. Around 8.00pm one body arrived with my wife’s name and address on it. But we were suspicious about the body which was already covered in blood and therefore we didn’t want to accept it as the body of our baby. Thereafter we requested to conduct a DNA test and the baby’s body was sealed once again and was put inside the freezer,” he continued. 

The parents had then requested the hospital to conduct a DNA test, but the hospital had asked them to get it done privately. According to the Sri Lankan law, a DNA test would only be conducted following a court order. 

“On May 27, we met with the Hospital’s Acting Deputy Director who was dumbstruck when I asked him a few questions regarding the negligent behaviours by his staff,” Madushani continued. “Initially he asked us to record the entire conversation, but after I started questioning him he was absolutely speechless and accused us for recording the confrontation and discouraged us from releasing it to the media. Once we obtained the court order to conduct a DNA test, the Chief Magistrate took us near the body that was brought back from Colombo. I couldn’t recognize the body because it was already deformed. I placed so much trust in the hospital staff that I didn’t even request for a post-mortem. But after all these events transpired I became more suspicious and demanded that all necessary examinations need to be conducted to even determine the cause of death. Thereafter the Chief Magistrate ordered the police to ensure that both a DNA test and a post-mortem are conducted,” she said. 

The actual date of delivery for this baby had been June 14. Even on May 11 when Madushani attended the maternity clinic in her MOH area, the doctors had said that the baby is alive and doing well. However the doctors claimed that the baby was slightly underweight and had fixed the next channeling date for May 22. Medical reports indicate that the child’s organs and other features were normal and no complications had been indicated on the diagnosis card. Madushani claims that she hadn’t developed any complications even at this point. 

“If I wanted to kill the child I wouldn’t have spent Rs. 5000 for each checkup and consulted a private doctor,” said Madushani who is employed at a nearby garment factory. “I have made many sacrifices to see my child alive and healthy. But all my efforts were wasted. My husband also works at the garment factory and he had to do night shifts. He has to pay the finance for the bike and I reported to work daily to earn my salary. If we don’t report to work properly they would deduct our salaries rather senselessly,” she said. 

At their home, newly bought toys and clothes- including a pink baby carrier bag- newly stitched pink colour baby clothes, wall décor including pictures of babies and the alphabet lay idle. “Perhaps I would give away all these items as they are of no use now,” said Madushani barely managing a smile with tear-filled eyes. 


“A lapse in communication complicated things further”

– Hospital Acting Deputy Director –

A video circulating on social media and mainstream media channels shows a confrontation between Madushani, Chathura, former Weligama mayor Rehan Jayawickreme and two police officers. Here the Acting Deputy Director of the Hospital is seen requesting Madushani to not make a noise inside the hospital premises. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Hospital’s Acting Deputy Director Dr. R. P Sarath said that he had not only asked Madushani to not make a noise, but had also asked her to sit down as she shouldn’t be exerting herself too much post-delivery. “But this part had been omitted from the video that is being shared. The foetus in question is around 34 weeks. When Madushani was admitted the consultant gynaecologist informed us at that the heart had stopped beating and thereafter we arranged to remove the foetus through a C-section surgery,” said Dr. Sarath.

According to Dr. Sarath, Madushani had gotten herself admitted at around 11.00pm on May 22. “She had written a consent form saying that she accepts the fact that the foetus is dead and had consented for the clinical removal of the foetus. This is what we call a macerated stillbirth. On May 23rd the mother had high fever, a condition called Septicemia. We in fact saved the mother’s life by prescribing necessary antibiotics and providing treatments immediately,” the doctor said. 

On May 23 she was transferred to the labour room and on May 24 she had signed another consent form saying that a post-mortem isn’t necessary. “By that time the hospital minor staff had discarded the body in a small refrigerator facility that we have. This is a 2’4” container. The baby was already covered in gauze and when the father had requested to see the body the staff had refrained from showing the body. But the mother had seen the body. However there had been a communication error among staff members because although they had said that they would show the body, they hadn’t shown it. But prior to showing the body we require certain documentation. But these parents presented the documents on May 25th,” Dr. Sarath further claimed. 

He further said that there are three ways in which bodies of stillborn babies are being discarded. Burials are not being done as animals tend to dig human remains once buried. “We sometimes send these bodies to registered funeral parlours who would then either bury or cremate these bodies. Another option is to provide these bodies to a Company that is licensed to incarcerate surgical waste. A vehicle comes twice a week to collect all surgical waste. I previously mentioned a 2’4” container where these bodies are being kept. When the hospital staff realised that it is running out of space they have given away this body without their knowledge and without checking the foetus. This vehicle arrived on the morning of May 25th and by the time the couple returned with the documents the foetus was given away. Thereafter they created a ruckus when they realized that the hospital didn’t have their baby’s body,” Dr. Sarath said.

When Madushani and Chathura had requested to see the body of their baby, Dr. Sarath had contacted the relevant authorities to retrieve the body. “They hesitated at first, but by about 6.15pm they brought the body back. At this point the couple said that they are not willing to accept the body. But if we were unable to retrieve the body at this point, all their accusations would have been justified,” he said. 

Dr. Sarath further said that there’s a procedure to follow when obtaining a DNA test. However they obtained a court order to conduct both a post-mortem and a DNA test. He once again reiterated the fact that a lapse in communication among the hospital staff complicated matters further. 

The Daily Mirror learns that Health Ministry officials had conducted a three-day investigation, obtaining statements from all relevant hospital staff to analyse what had actually transpired. While investigations are underway to determine the identity of the child and a possible cause of death, Madushani and Chathura offered an alms giving in memory of their deceased newborn and in anticipation of a fair conclusion.


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