In Practice

Managing the remains of fetuses and abandoned infants: A call to urgently review South African law and medicolegal practice

Lorraine du Toit-Prinsloo, Camilla Pickles, Gert Saayman

Abstract


This article reviews South African (SA) law and its impact on the medicolegal management of fetal remains emanating from elective and therapeutic termination of pregnancies, stillbirths and miscarriages and the remains of abandoned or exposed infants. It was found that remains are treated differently, some constituting medical waste while others have sufficient status in law to allow for burial. This approach results in some women or couples being denied a choice with regard to disposal via culturally relevant practices, and is insensitive to the fact that all remains ultimately constitute human remains. The article argues that SA law is in urgent need of reform, and turns to foreign law and forensic practice to shed light on possible alternative approaches that could assist with developing the SA position and thereby improve the practical management of fetal and infant remains in SA.


Authors' affiliations

Lorraine du Toit-Prinsloo, Department of Forensic Medicine, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Camilla Pickles, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Gert Saayman, Department of Forensic Medicine, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

Full Text

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Keywords

Registration of live birth; Stillbirth; Viability; Termination of pregnancy; Burial options; Fetuses

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(6):578-581. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i6.10598

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-01-29
Date published: 2016-05-08

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