The placenta is not a showy organ. It does yeoman’s work sustaining baby throughout pregnancy, then, shortly after the moment that should be its, ahem, crowning glory, it’s unceremoniously tossed into the medical waste bin. But now that oxygen-giving, nutrient-transporting tissue blob has made headlines after four nursing students in suburban Kansas City mugged with a placenta on Facebook, of all places.
Disrespecting the placenta in cyberspace was not a savvy move, for the women were kicked out of Johnson County Community College. Now one of the students, Doyle Byrnes, has headed to court to try to compel the school to re-admit her before classes resume Jan. 19. Prior to her placenta problems, Byrnes was on track to graduate in May. (More on Time.com: A Baby is Born, His Mother Dies; Read About It on Facebook)
What were the nurses-in-training doing getting up close and personal with a third-party placenta anyway? The students were part of a group attending an off-site course at a hospital to see what a real, live placenta looks like when one of the students asked the instructor, Amber Delphia, if it would be alright to immortalize the placenta on Facebook, according to The Kansas City Star.
Delphia, according to the lawsuit, merely said, “Oh, you girls,” and did not tell them not to do it or that it could result in discipline.
Four students had themselves photographed with the organ, which had no identification linking it to a particular woman. Byrnes’ photo showed her smiling broadly, wearing a lab coat and surgical gloves and leaning over the placenta in a tray.
Far from amused, Jeanne Walsh, director of nursing at the college, chastised Byrnes in a letter included with the lawsuit:
“Your demeanor and lack of professional behavior surrounding this event was considered a disruption to the learning environment and did not exemplify the professional behavior that we expect in the nursing program.” (More on Time.com: Can an iPhone App Save Your Marriage?)
Byrnes responded to Walsh in writing:
“In my excitement to be able to share with my loved ones the phenomenal learning experience in which I had been blessed enough to take part, I did not consider that others might view this photograph as unprofessional, offensive to the school I was representing and more importantly the sanctity of human life,” she wrote. “For my actions I am truly sorry.”
Ah, the perils of social networking. (More on Time.com: Facebook Says You’ll Break Up Before Spring Break)
In any case, Byrnes’ attorney points out, the school’s code of conduct addresses neither photographs nor social media. It’s unknown whether the code addresses bad judgement, which Byrnes and her buddies displayed in no short supply.