JINAN - The dumping of 21 baby bodies and fetuses in a river in East China's Shandong province was due to old local customs and a lack of regulation, experts said.
In some parts of China, especially in poor rural areas, parents are reluctant to take babies' bodies home for a funeral. They would rather dump the body in a corner of the hospital or pay someone to bury the baby, said Ma Guanghai, deputy dean of Shandong University's school of philosophy and social development.
According to regulations, if a body is recovered from a hospital corner, hospital officials should register the identification of the dead baby, report the case to the public security bureau and then arrange for the baby's body to be cremated.
Abandoning a dead body is an outdated practice related to the high death rate of babies in the past. A modern society that respects life cannot allow this type of abandonment, Ma said.
Residents and firemen on Monday found 21 fetuses and baby bodies dumped under a bridge crossing the Guangfu River on the outskirts of Jining.
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, Gong Zhenhua, a city government spokesman, said on Tuesday.
"They subsequently secretly transported the bodies to the Guangfu River, but they failed to bury the bodies completely," he said.
Two senior officials, Li Luning and He Xin, director and deputy director of the hospital's logistics department, have been removed from their posts in the wake of the incident.
A vice-president of the hospital, Niu Haifeng, has also been suspended from his post.
Meanwhile, Jining health bureau officials have offered a public apology for their ineffective supervision.
Experts said regulations must be introduced as soon as possible to determine the legal status of infant bodies. A regulation that clarifies the procedures for dealing with infant bodies in a respectful manner is needed, they added.
No legal definition for dead infants or fetuses exists in China, but classifying them as "medical waste," as many hospitals do, is not appropriate, said Cao Yongfu, deputy director of the medical ethics institute at Shandong University.
"There should be regulations for dealing with infants' bodies and dead fetuses that comply with both the law and folk customs," he said. "Otherwise, there will always be loopholes for hospital management."
Xinhua - China Daily