Keep Commercialism Out of Maternity Wards, Nader Urges Hospitals

Noting that “these days, the business of birth starts early with the cutting of the umbilical cord,” consumer advocate Ralph Nader has asked the American Hospital Association to urge member hospitals to keep commercialism out of the maternity wards.

In a letter to AHA President Dick Davidson and Board Chair Fred Brown, Nader wrote that, “In hospitals across the country, mothers giving birth are likely to receive a gift bag overflowing with brand name goodies and promotions from businesses eager to have their companies’ names follow a child from birth to their own first purchases. Often unaware of exactly what they are distributing, hospital staff have become unwitting promoters of T-shirts, baby detergents, nursing pads, soup, commercial guides to infant growth, children’s medications and, most prominently, infant formula.”

Nader drew attention to George Washington University Hospital, where a recent mother received two bags of corporate products and marketing materials from the hospital staff, containing 49 commercial product or service endorsements. Among the products: disposable Huggies” diapers, unscented baby wipes, diaper rash ointment, seven requests of more personal information for mailing lists, three credit card offers, an offer for “posture improving” bra and underwear for mothers worried about their appearance and a slew of solicitations for baby books, films, toys, jobs, portraits, chocolate bars, life insurance and children’s tylenol.

In response to a letter from a Nader staff researcher, GW Hospital CEO Phillip S. Schaengold agreed to remove the commercial products from the bags of material given to new parents.

“After our review of the bags’ contents we found your complaints to be valid,” Schaengold wrote. “We too believe that the commercial products included in each bag to be inappropriate for distribution to our patients.”

“Over the next month, we will be working to create a GW Hospital diaper bag of our own which will include items such as: baby bibs and generic safety instruction cards. The purpose of this new bag is twofold. It removes the need for the bags you found offensive and provides gift for new moms who deliver their babies at our hospital.”

Nader asked the AHA to encourage member hospitals to follow the GW Hospital example.

For copies of the Nader and GW letters, contact Tarek Ghani at 202-387-8034.

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