What price the disposal of foetal remains?

There has been much anguish in recent months, and then not for the first time, concerning the disposal of foetal remains as clinical wastes.

In Croatia however, matters have moved much further. On 7 August 2003, a Croatian national gave birth to a still-born child at a public hospital in Split, Croatia.  The parents did not want to take the child’s remains, leaving the hospital to carry out an autopsy, and burial.  After the autopsy was carried out the hospital disposed of the child’s remains with their clinical waste.

The parents subsequently tried to find out about their child’s burial without success.  They issued civil proceedings against the hospital.  The Split County Court, and subsequently the Supreme Court of Croatia, found that, under domestic law, the hospital should not have disposed of the child’s remains as clinical waste.  The Court refused compensation as no provision of the law obliged the hospital to inform parents where their still-born child was buried.

On 12 June 2014 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the hospital had violated Article 8 ECHR, the right to family and private life.   As the Croatian government had not cited any legislation that endorsed the method of disposal the ECHR found that it was unlawful and awarded damages of €12,300.

We are not told what was the gestational age of the foetus, perhaps a rather ill-defined lump of tissue to a perceptibly human and well-advanced human foetus? However, this European Court of Human Rights ruling may set a Europe-wide precedent impacting all UK activities, to dictate formal and presumably secular burial of all foetal remains.

It will presumably apply to all foetal tissues, from early miscarriages and planned terminations to late still births, impacting on services in hospitals and clinics, and in the community also.

Read the ECHR press release here.


see Incineration of foetal remains




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