Hospital’s Role Questioned After Baby Was Cut From Slain Mother’s Womb

Clarisa Figueroa showed up at Advocate Christ Medical Center claiming to have given birth to a newborn baby in distress, despite no medical evidence she'd been pregnant. Authorities allege she cut the child from the womb of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez after strangling her to death.

By Jill Sederstrom

Authorities plan to investigate whether a Chicago hospital violated any state laws by failing to immediately report that a woman came into the hospital claiming she was the mother of a newborn baby in distress, despite the fact that there was no evidence she had given birth herself.

Chicago Police later arrested the woman, Clarisa Figueroa, 46, and charged her with first-degree murder for the death of Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, who investigators say was nine months pregnant when she was killed and the baby was cut from of her stomach. Figueroa’s adult daughter Desiree Figueroa is also facing first-degree murder charges in the alleged attack.

Cara Smith, chief policy officer at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said law enforcement authorities plan to launch an investigation if it's determined by the state’s Department of Family Services that Advocate Christ Medical Center violated the state’s Abuse and Neglected Children Reporting Act by failing to report the woman’s claim, according to the Associated Press.

“We will ask DCFS to advise if this unspeakable tragic set of facts was reportable,” Smith said in a statement issued Monday.

The announcement comes after the Chicago Police Department and state agency said they were never alerted by the hospital after Figueroa arrived at the hospital claiming to have just given birth to the baby.

Although she was covered in blood on her face and upper body, prosecutors have said that hospital officials examined Figueroa and were unable to find any signs that she had recently given birth or had been pregnant, The Chicago Tribune reports.

However, the local paper said that hospital officials never contacted state child welfare officials until May 9, more than two weeks after Figueroa arrived with the baby on April 23, the same day police believe Ochoa-Lopez was killed.

The agency was only contacted after police had arrived at the hospital after getting a tip from the victim’s friend. Authorities believe that Ochoa-Lopez had been going to meet Figueroa to get some baby clothes for her unborn child around the time she disappeared.

DCFS also released a statement Monday saying that the agency does not regulate hospitals but said it would “provide any support needed to the family in this case and to those handling any investigations into this matter.”

Ochoa-Lopez’s family met with the hospital for several hours on Monday to find out more about the hospital's actions in the days leading up to the discovery that the baby belonged to Ochoa-Lopez, whose body was discovered in a garbage can near the Figueroa home.

“At what point did the hospital become concerned that this was not the parents,” family advocate Frank Avila said, according to Chicago station WFLD.

Julie Contreras, an advocate for the family, described the baby as being “born from brutality” and said the family has many lingering questions about what role the hospital played in the tragedy.

“You have a family who has to trust in a medical facility where criminals were lurking over their child,” she said according to The Chicago Tribune. “Today we wanted to begin a dialogue where Christ Advocate system will treat this family with respect and dignity. It’s very traumatic to know how their child was being treated when their child was stolen, ripped from the mother. It was a difficult conversation.”

As part of the meeting, family members asked for clarification about hospital policies and procedures.

“I have asked to see a copy of their protocols and procedures for mothers who come in who have given birth at home,” Contreras said according to WFLD. “The questions that we asked, which were many, are going to be answered in our next meeting.”

The hospital has declined to speak specifically about the meeting but has said it is cooperating with authorities.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ochoa-Lopez family. Our top priority is to provide the safest and highest quality care for the patients and communities we serve. Out of respect for patient privacy and in compliance with federal and state regulations, we are unable to provide comment. We continue to cooperate with local authorities,” a hospital statement said.

The baby boy, who has been named Yadiel, remains in critical condition and is on life support.

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