France’s health minister has revealed new details of the shocking discovery of 351 foetuses and stillborn babies at a Paris hospital, saying in an interview published today that some of the remains were stored in bags and jars in “disgraceful” conditions.
“I still have these disturbing images in my mind,” Xavier Bertrand was quoted as saying in the Le Parisien daily newspaper.
Authorities announced yesterday that the hospital had illegally kept the babies in a morgue, some for two decades.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the discovery at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Hospital, which the health minister visited yesterday.
“What I saw shocked me enormously,” Bertrand said. “These sacks and bottles of formaldehyde spread out in the rooms. Autopsies had been carried out on some of the bodies. The conditions of conservation were disgraceful.”
French law forbids the conservation of stillborn babies’ bodies.
Keeping a dead foetus is also illegal; its use for medical purposes is not allowed unless the parents give explicit consent.
Authorities were trying to locate the families of the bodies, Bertrand said, adding, “This terrible discovery is a second suffering for them after the loss of their child.”
Authorities vowed to determine how the illegal practice went unnoticed for so long and whether it existed in other French hospitals. Bertrand said he expected to have preliminary results of an inspection of hospitals as early as Thursday.
Jean-Marc Boulanger, director of the Paris hospital system, yesterday said the bodies had been found in the hospital’s morgue.
Some of the babies had died in 1985, he said. Few other details were available.