Burning aborted foetuses no longer acceptable, hospital chiefs are told

HOSPITALS in Scotland have been told they can no longer dispose of aborted and miscarried foetuses by burning them as clinical waste.

HOSPITALS in Scotland have been told they can no longer dispose of aborted and miscarried foetuses by burning them as clinical waste.

New guidelines from the Scottish Government say all foetal remains should now be given a formal burial or cremation.

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Chief medical officer Harry Burns has written to all health boards telling them of the new guidance which he says is being brought in to “recognise the sensitivity around early pregnancy loss”.

The move will also give parents who have suffered a miscarriage and to women who have had an abortion the choice on how they would like the remains to be disposed of.

Women who have suffer the loss of an unborn baby will be given sensitively written information on the options they have, including making their own funeral arrangements.

The move follows a two-year review into how hospitals dealt with the remains. The previous guidelines were 20 years old and had advised health boards that incineration was still acceptable.

In 2010 a member of staff working at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who had seen remains being put into a bag and thrown out along with other clinical waste, had reported the practice to managers.

Dr Burns has written to all of Scotland’s health boards saying they practice of disposing of any pregnancy loss by incineration or clinical waste is no longer acceptable.

Now, all pregnancy losses must be placed in small, individual boxes and looked after in a mortuary before being cremated or buried. The new guidelines say the boxes should only be transported by a funeral director or hospital transport.

Boards have also been told to produce information leaflets telling parents what will happen to the remains. This will include how parents can be present at the crematorium for the committal and how the NHS covers the cost of the disposal.

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Dr Burns said: “All pregnancy losses should be handled with dignity, care and respect. In all matters relating to the disposal of pregnancy loss it should be remembered this is a highly sensitive issue.

“Language used in communicating with women and their families should reflect this.”

Support groups welcomed the new guidelines saying they would be a “huge comfort” to parents at a sad time in their lives.

Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the Miscarriage Association, said: “We whole-heartedly support this move which will be a huge comfort to parents who have suffered a miscarriage. Parents can now be reassured that the remains are treated with great respect.”

Ellen Hudson, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “We welcome the clarity this latest guidance gives on what is understandably a sensitive issue. This will help to ensure staff are able to deal with arrangements in a compassionate way, taking into account the wishes of all those involved.”