Addenbrooke’s and all other NHS England hospitals have been instructed not to incinerate aborted foetuses as waste.
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England medical director has written to all trusts, including Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), ordering them to cremate or bury aborted foetuses rather than incinerate them. In his letter, Sir Bruce wrote: “I share the view that incineration of foetal remains is inappropriate practice and that other methods offer more dignity in these sensitive situations.”
A freedom of information request found 10 trusts disposed of more than 1,000 foetuses as clinical waste, while CUH was one of two which used a furnace that generates energy to power wards.
Human Tissue Association (HTA) rules currently allow remains under 24 weeks – the point at which the average weight is 1lb 2oz – to be incinerated and anything over must be buried or cremated, but health ministers are now calling for a ban on incineration, which was stopped in Scotland in 2012.
Addenbrooke’s and others may have been compliant with the prevailing regulation, which nonetheless did not meet the expectations of those loosing an early pregnancy, and others, who have not considered that a blob of tissue may not really justify the formality, cost and upset of a ‘funeral’. The reality is now that increased costs will be borne by Trusts, and perhaps by Local Authorities also, while distressed mums and dads walk away to manage their grief in their own way.