New rules for disposing of dead babies in China

If hospitals cannot find a dead baby's guardian or if the guardian cannot afford the transportation and cremation, the government will pay the fees so that inappropriate disposal of the corpse can be prevented, according to a regulation published today.

It is China's first regulation on dealing with bodies of babies, Xinhua news agency said.
The regulation came after the dumping of 21 baby bodies and foetuses in a river in Jining last week sparked public criticism. Eight of the 21 bodies had tabs with clinic code numbers attached to their feet, it reported.

The tabs showed the bodies were from the affiliated hospital of Jining Medical University.
Mortuary workers Zhu Zhenyu and Wang Zhijun have been sacked by the hospital and detained by police for allegedly reaching verbal agreements with the relatives of the dead babies to dispose of the bodies for a fee, said Gong Zhenhua, a city government spokesman.

They allegedly transported the bodies secretly to the Guangfu River, but they had failed to bury the bodies completely.

In some parts of China, especially in poor rural areas, parents are reluctant to take baby bodies home for a funeral. They would rather dump the body in a corner of the hospital or pay someone to bury it, said Ma Guanghai, deputy dean at Shandong University's School of Philosophy and Social Development.

According to analysts, China's "one-child" family-planning rules has been blamed for fuelling abortions in particular of female foetuses, where boys are traditionally favoured.
China had no legal status for a dead foetus, so it was not appropriate to classify it as "medical waste," said Cao Yongfu, deputy director of the Medical Ethics Institute at Shandong University.

He said regulations must be introduced as soon as possible to determine the legal status of infant bodies.

Regulations that clarified procedures for dealing with the bodies in a respectful manner was needed, the news agency quoted him as saying.

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