February 24, 2024

Stillborn babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals

Aborted and miscarried babies were used as heating fuel in green waste reduction programmes, according to a Channel 4 investigation

Government hospitals in the UK have been using aborted and miscarried babies as heating fuel in green waste reduction programmes, according to a Channel 4 investigation. Ten trusts (or divisions) of the National Health Service have admitted that they have been burning the remains of these children with medical rubbish, and two trust actually used the bodies in “waste-to-energy” plants to heat the hospitals.

At least 15,500 foetal remains have been incinerated by the 27 trusts over the past two years, according to the Daily Telegraph. Not all of the Trusts have been mixing foetal remains with medical waste. But one of Britain’s best hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at its ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told their babies had been ‘cremated.’

After the program aired earlier this week, the Department of Health immediately banned the practice. The health minister, Dr Dan Poulter declared that it was ‘totally unacceptable.’

A number of women told Channel 4 that they had been treated insensitively by hospital staff after a miscarriage. ‘I asked one of the nurses what would happen to my baby and she said “it will be incinerated with the rest of the day’s waste.”‘ one woman told the Daily Mail. ‘That was difficult to hear, to me it wasn’t the day’s waste, it was my baby. It would have been nice to mark that baby’s life but there was nothing in the hospital that gave us that opportunity.’

Sands, a British charity which deals with stillbirth and neonatal deaths, said that cremation is the best policy, never incineration. A spokesperson said:

“Research has shown that the stage the pregnancy has reached when the baby dies is not an accurate predictor of the length and depth of the grief the parents will experience. Foetus is not a term that parents use or that should be used with them. From the day the pregnancy is confirmed they are expecting a baby. The death of a baby at any stage of pregnancy is a major bereavement with life long consequences. The care that parents receive cannot lessen their pain, but poor and insensitive care can and does make matters worse both in the short and the long term.” 

Michael Cook
Creative commons