The remains of more than 15,000 aborted and miscarried fetuses were incinerated as “clinical waste” at British hospitals, some of which use “waste-to-energy” systems that generate heat for the facility.
At least 15,500 fetal remains were incinerated by 27 National Health Service trusts in the last two years, according to a recent investigation by the Channel 4 news program “Dispatches.”
Ten NHS trusts admitted to burning fetal remains with their garbage. Two other hospitals burned fetal remains in waste-to-energy systems.
The Department of Health issued a ban on the practice this past Sunday night.
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“This practice is totally unacceptable,” said Health Minister Dr. Dan Poulter. “While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals, and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”
Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, one of the nation’s leading hospitals, incinerated 797 fetuses that were under 13 weeks gestation in its waste-to-energy system. Meanwhile, mothers were told that the babies were “cremated.”
Ipswich Hospital Trust incinerated 1,101 remains from 2011 to 2013 in its waste-to-energy system, which is operated by a private contractor.
The hospital said it was shocked to learn of the practice.
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“The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate fetal remains,” said an Ipswich spokeswoman. She added that the trust “takes great care over fetal remains.”
“I am disappointed trusts may not be informing or consulting women and their families,” said Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards. “This breaches our standard on respecting and involving people who use services and I’m keen for 'Dispatches' to share their evidence with us. We scrutinize information of concern and can inspect unannounced, if required.”