Local custom, lack of regulation behind baby dumping

(Xinhua)
Updated: 2010-03-31 21:10
JINAN - Experts said the dumping of 21 baby bodies and fetuses in a river in east China's Shandong Province was due to old local custom and a lack of regulation.

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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.

If bodies are recovered from hospital corners, the hospital should register the identification of the dead baby, report it to the public security bureau, and hand them over for cremation.

Abandonment of the dead body was an outdated practice related to high death rate of babies in the past. A modern society that respects life cannot allow this type of abandonment anymore, Ma added.

Experts said regulation must be introduced as soon as possible to determine the legal status of infant bodies. Regulation that clarifies the procedures for dealing with the bodies in a respectful manner is needed, they added.

There is no legal definition for dead fetus in China, and it is not appropriate to classify it as medical waste, said Cao Yongfu, deputy director of the Medical Ethics Institute at Shandong University.

"There should be regulations for dealing with the infant bodies and dead fetus that comply with both laws and folk customs," he said. "Otherwise, there will always be loopholes for hospital management."

Residents and firemen on Monday found 21 fetuses and baby bodies dumped under a bridge crossing the Guangfu River on the outskirts of Jining City.

Eight of the 21 bodies had tabs with clinic code numbers attached to their feet. 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 subsequently transported the bodies secretly to the Guangfu River, but they had failed to bury the bodies completely," he added.

Two senior officials, Li Luning and He Xin, a director and deputy director of the hospital's Logistics Department, have been removed from their posts in the wake of the incident.

Moreover, a vice president of the hospital, Niu Haifeng, has been suspended from his post.

Meanwhile, the Jining Municipal Health Bureau has offered a public apology for their ineffective supervision.

The case, however, has sparked public criticism as netizens said the abandonment was unacceptable and challenged the bottom line of the public's feelings and morals.

A netizen wrote on the leading portal Sina.com:"This was so unhuman even they were just corpses."

"Children, you enjoyed no happiness and care in the world before being abused in such a brutal way! This is the living's humiliation and disgrace," another wrote.

"It made me shuddering when reading the news," a third netizen wrote. "Each one should have its own dignity even after death."

Some netizens even called for harsher punishment by sacking more senior hospital and local health officials.