Hong Kong couple seeking burial of miscarried son spark change for other local Catholic parents

‘Clinical waste’ controversy prompts diocese to form plan to help faithful who are in similar situations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 9:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 10:30pm

A Hong Kong couple who have been jumping through bureaucratic hurdles to retrieve their miscarried son deemed “clinical waste” by a hospital might inspire revolutionary change for other grieving Catholic parents in the city.

Kevin and Angela, who have made known their situation to the city’s Catholic diocese, have prompted the church to come up with a plan to help parents properly bury their foetuses when public hospitals would otherwise dispose them.

But the changes, if successful, would still be limited to Catholic parents, raising questions as to how families of other faiths or without a religion could similarly reclaim their fetuses.

Hope for Hong Kong couple stuck in bureaucratic battle over attempt to bury baby lost in miscarriage

The Post has learned that, apart from Catholics, the city’s Islamic community offers similar services to Muslim parents.

The couple, using pseudonyms, were originally told by Princess Margaret Hospital they would not be given back Wally, their son whom they lost 15 weeks into pregnancy.

But hope flared when they were told two weeks ago that Wally would be returned if they managed to find a place to bury him. The couple contacted the diocese.

‘Open wound that won’t heal’: a Hong Kong couple’s emotional fight against ‘clinical waste’ label on child in miscarriage

Wally is not considered a life under the Hospital Authority’s definition of 24 weeks and therefore is not eligible for necessary legal documents for cremation and burial at local public after-life facilities.

The Catholic diocese, which runs private cemeteries in the city, wrote to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department after being contacted by Kevin and Angela.

It has proposed to turn a section of Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery at Cape Collinson into a place where abortuses – fetuses under 24 weeks – could be laid to rest.

We share the same faith so we are willing to help
Rev Dominic Chan Chi-ming, Catholic diocese

Called the “Angel Garden”, the place is expected to be big enough to help other couples in the coming five to six years, said diocese vicar general Reverend Dominic Chan Chi-ming. “It is new [to us].”

In the Catholic faith, he explained, a baby was treated as a living being the moment it was conceived. “[We and Kevin] share the same faith so we are willing to help.”

Chan added this would provide more options to couples who would like to opt for a proper ceremony for their lost child in the future.

But the proposal was still subject to department approval. Under the Private Cemeteries Regulations, the department director is to grant permission for a body to be buried at a private cemetery. However, such an arrangement does not apply to a fetus under 24 weeks old.

A department spokesman said a private cemetery operator could keep human abortuses in areas other than a designated grave space. And if so, the operator may consider formulating or revising its rules with a view to reflecting the cemetery management’s intention and arrangements in compliance with the regulation.

“Upon receipt, the government would favourably consider them on humanitarian grounds and with regard to the relevant statutory requirements and policy considerations,” the spokesman said.

Chan said that, once the church secured approval from the department, it would inform Princess Margaret Hospital, where the abortus was being kept.