Thousands of Dead Fetuses Burned Without Parents' Permission to Heat British Hospitals

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A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai November 19, 2013.
A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Thousands of babies who had died from abortion and miscarriage were being used to heat hospitals in Britain. An investigation has found that baby corpses go to the incinerator as clinical waste, aside from using the remains as fuel to keep British hospitals warm.

The Department of Health in the UK has ordered an immediate ban on the practice of burning foetal remains. Health Minister Dan Poulter has described the practice as "totally unacceptable."

Ten NHS trusts have admitted to burning baby corpses along with other hospital rubbish, while two other hospitals said they used the remains in "waste-to-energy" plants to generate power to provide heat.

According to Channel 4's Dispatches, at least 15,500 dead fetuses were burned by 27 hospitals in the last two years.  The TV programme had discovered that parents of lost fetuses in early pregnancy were often treated without mercy. They were also not consulted about what will happen to their dead babies.

Based on the programme, Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, one of Britain's leading hospitals, had burned 797 foetuses under 13 weeks of gestation to heat their hospital. Mothers of these dead babies were allegedly told that their dead babies were being "cremated."

A waste-to-energy facility in Ipswich Hospital which is operated by a private contractor has burned 1,101 dead foetuses between 2011 and 2013. The fetuses were taken from another hospital before being incinerated. Ipswich Hospital disposes dead foetuses by cremation.

According to Dr Poulter, the majority of hospitals in Britain were acting appropriately. However, the Human Tissue Authority has been asked to "act on the issue" as soon as possible.

The NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, has written to all NHS trusts to stop the burning of foetal remains. Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies has also written to the Human Tissue Authority to ask for clear guidance.

The Care Quality Commission said it would look into the TV programme's findings, but Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief hospital inspector, remarked he was "disappointed." He said the findings are against the standard on respecting and involving people who use services. He hopes Channel 4 will share their evidence.

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