Little less pain for moms of stillborn fetuses

Top News | Charlotte Luo 10 Jan 2019

Two hundred stillborn fetuses less than 24 weeks old will be given a place to rest at a public cemetery for the first time, lawmaker Roy Kwong Chun-yu said.

This comes after mothers shared stories of suffering miscarriages and having to part with the fetuses, which are treated as medical waste instead of stillborn children.

Kwong told The Standard the government has confirmed the fetuses will be buried at Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery, which will begin accepting applications at the end of the month.

He said 200 places will be offered in the first phase, while the second phase in March or April, may consist of between 300 and 400 more places.

Last year, Kwong assisted a 28-year-old mother who lost her 14-week-old fetus. Since the fetus was less than 24 weeks old, the Hospital Authority did not issue a Certificate of Stillbirth.

Under the Births and Deaths Registration Ordinance, doctors will issue a Certificate of Stillbirth to a stillborn child after 24 weeks of gestation or with a birth weight of more than 500 grams when the gestation age is uncertain.

The mother could not find a place to bury or cremate the fetus and refused to have it cremated at a place for pets.

She also dismissed the notion of letting it be thrown away as clinical waste. As a result, the fetus has been kept in a freezer.

Kwong said there is no policy to handle stillborn fetuses less than 24 weeks old and it has caused parents even more grief.

He said the new arrangement could help prevent stillborn fetuses from being thrown away like rubbish in the future. Kwong hopes the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will review the arrangement after the first phase.

The number of stillbirths in public hospitals in 2017 was 128.

The Department of Health and Hospital Authority does not keep records on the number of cases of miscarriages before the 24th week of pregnancy.

In her policy address last year, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the government has been examining proposals to further improve arrangements regarding the burial or cremation of these fetuses "in a holistic manner."

In mid-2017, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department approved an application from the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong to amend the rules for the management and control of its cemeteries.

It allowed the Catholic Diocese to process applications from parents to keep their miscarried fetuses at its designated cemeteries.

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