Frustrated Hong Kong couple finally get go-ahead to bury their miscarried son

Hospital initially treated 15-week fetus as clinical waste for disposal but parents battled to save boy, with government approving Catholic church plan for burial

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 8:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 9:34am

A Hong Kong couple caught up in a bureaucratic battle to retrieve the body of their miscarried son from a public hospital has finally been given the green light to collect and bury the fetus on Saturday.

Kevin and Angela were informed by the Catholic diocese over the weekend that the church’s application to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to help them bury the 15-week boy, Wally, had been approved.

They were previously prevented from taking their son home by Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung because Wally fell short of the requirement of 24 weeks, when public hospitals treat the fetus as a life. Fetuses like Wally are regarded as “clinical waste” and are disposed of accordingly.

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“I feel very relieved and happy to be able to bury my son with the dignity he deserves,” Kevin told the Post.

He said the family would collect the refrigerated fetus from the hospital on Saturday morning. A mass will be held at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Chai Wan at 11.30am on the same day before he is laid to rest.

“Anybody who has experience of a family being affected by a miscarriage, particularly those who were not able to bury their babies, are welcome,” the father said.

The couple’s case prompted support from lawmakers across the political spectrum who lobbied health undersecretary Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.

The Post reported that Chan had promised to review the laws affecting couples like Kevin and Angela following a meeting with pro-democracy legislator Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

Chan was later approached by pro-Beijing lawmaker Lau Kwok-fan.

Kevin said:“It is opening the way forward for Hong Kong to give anybody the right [to bury their fetuses too].”

The couple, who are using pseudonyms, suffered a bureaucratic nightmare after Angela miscarried at home and was rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital in mid-April.

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They were told by hospital staff that Wally was the property of the hospital and would be disposed of as clinical waste.

After lodging an application to claim back the boy, followed by various exchanges with the authorities, the Catholic couple eventually approached the diocese, which runs private cemeteries.

The church gave the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department a proposal to set up an “Angel Garden” in Chai Wan cemetery to help those who have lost fetuses. The government approved the plan.

Kevin said he was grateful for the help of the diocese and was pleased that the department had handled the church’s application so quickly.

But he is mindful that technically Wally’s clinical status has not yet changed. He is also aware the church had extended assistance only to Catholic parents.

“I want to see a [legal] change in Hong Kong,” he added.