East Lancs health trust’s pledge over babies’ remains

Burnley General Hospital sent remains to the crematorium

Burnley General Hospital sent remains to the crematorium

First published in News

THE trust which runs East Lancashire’s hospitals has spoken out to say it has not been involved with a controversial practice of disposing of foetal remains alongside rubbish.

At least 15,500 remains from aborted or miscarried babies were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone.

Ten trusts admitted burning more than 1,000 sets of foetal remains as ‘clinical waste’ and two others, including one of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, disposed of the remains in their ‘waste to energy’ furnaces that generate power and heat the hospital.

Mothers at the hospitals in question were never told their babies’ bodies would be disposed of in this way and all forms given to them said that the remains would be ‘cremated’.

East Lancashire was not one of the trusts found to be carrying out the controversial practice, which has been condemned by health professionals this week after gaining national exposure in an episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches.

Dr Duncan Gavan, divisional director of diagnostic and clinical support at East Lancashire Health Trust, said: “The trust can confirm that foetuses are not incinerate as clinical waste. Our policy is clear that all foetuses are identified separately and sent to the mortuary. This is a very sensitive issue and our staff treat it as such. They follow a Human Tissue Authority-approved process to ensure foetuses are cremated appropriately.”

The HTA code of practice for the disposal of human tissue, which includes foetal remains, says women who have had an abortion or miscarriage should be informed that there are options available – burial, cremation and incineration.

The code says disposal via incineration should be handled as ‘sensitive’ and therefore should not be done alongside the burning of waste.

Figures obtained under FOI request show that 916 foetal remains were sent from Royal Blackburn Hospital to Blackburn Crematorium for cremation last year and 690 were sent from Burnley General Hospital to Burnley Crematorium for cremation.

The information also states that no remains that contain foetal parts were disposed of as ‘waste’ and that if a family wants a private funeral the foetus is returned to them for the purpose.

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