Closure at last for Hong Kong couple who fought to bury fetus after miscarriage

Loved ones pay respects as body is laid to rest and struggle for distressed parents finally comes to an end

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 11:20pm

It was a highly emotional moment and closure on Saturday for a Hong Kong couple who were finally able to hold a funeral for their baby after a miscarriage and a two-month bureaucratic struggle to reclaim his body from the authorities.

The burial of their 15-week-old fetus, named Wally, paved the way for similar cases in the future. Wally was laid to rest in a newly set up corner – the first of its kind – at a Catholic cemetery.

Couple Kevin and Angela (not their real names to protect their identities) were previously prevented from taking Wally home by Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung because the fetus fell short of the 24-week mark to be considered human. It was classified as clinical waste to be disposed of.

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

“We miss him very much,” Kevin said, fighting back tears to give a memorial speech at a mass prior to the burial.

“He lived a little life, 15 weeks ... It could have gone on forever, but no. He went home too early, much too early for us.”

The couple were allowed to reclaim Wally’s remains on Saturday, after they were contacted by the Catholic diocese last weekend, and informed that the church’s application to set up a burial ground for bodies in such cases had been approved by the city’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. It is called the “Angel Garden”.

On Saturday morning, a red-eyed Kevin collected Wally’s body from Princess Margaret, placing him in a tiny wooden box, before travelling to the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Chai Wan.

An intimate mass, hosted by vicar-general Dominic Chan Chi-ming, was held for loved ones at a chapel, where the group prayed, sang hymns and bade their last farewells to Wally.

“Baby Wally will always inspire us, remind us of how precious life is and that life can be so fleeting,” one visitor wrote in a condolence book placed at the entrance.

Leading the mass, Chan called Wally “a symbol of love”, saying that he was a life the moment he was conceived.

Angela said: “We pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the leaders of our society of Hong Kong to make laws that are compassionate and caring for the voiceless and recognise the humanity of all, including the youngest members of society”.

Wally was then carried up the hill. Guests dedicated flowers before he was buried behind a tree guarded by an angel statue.

The couple’s journey to reclaim their son began in mid April when Angela had a miscarriage at home and was treated at Princess Margaret.

There, they were told they could not take Wally home.

After lodging an application and following various exchanges with authorities, the Catholic couple eventually approached the diocese, which runs private cemeteries.

The church proposed to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to set up an “Angel Garden” in Chai Wan cemetery to help distressed couples in similar situations.The government approved the plan.

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

The Post reported that Sophia Chan had promised to review laws affecting couples such as Kevin and Angela, following a meeting with pan-democratic legislator Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

“I had mixed feelings. But I’m relieved and sort of happy,” Angela said.

She said though a life was lost, she was thankful to God that Wally was finally returned to them.

The vicar-general said the liaison with the department was smooth, acknowledging that officials also had their hands tied due to the legal restrictions.

He called for changes in the law. “Why not give these mothers a choice?”