Perth mothers come forward over ‘stillborn cremation bungles’ after funeral mix-up exposed

Several Perth women have come forward claiming their stillborn babies were cremated at King Edward Memorial Hospital’s pathology unit without their knowledge.

The revelations come less than 24 hours after a WA couple revealed they were given the wrong baby for their daughter’s funeral in 2017.

Rita and Chris Santorini are suing WA’s health service and a funeral provider over claims their stillborn child, Lily, was mistakenly cremated by another grieving family just hours before they attended a chapel service and realised the tiny baby inside the coffin was not theirs.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers national head of medical negligence, Dimitra Dubrow, said several mothers had contacted her office.Credit:Nic Walker

Since the WA District Court civil case became public on Wednesday, several other women have contacted Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are representing the Santorinis, claiming their stillborn children were also cremated at the pathology unit without their knowledge — robbing them of their final goodbyes.

Brie, whose surname WAtoday has chosen not to publish, told ABC Radio her daughter, Jessie, was cremated before a planned service which she and her partner wanted to attend.

Jessie was born at Fiona Stanley Hospital in March 2016 at 19 weeks, just days shy of the 20-week milestone to be a registered birth. Her body was then transferred to the KEMH pathology unit for a post-mortem examination.

Brie said she had requested her baby not have a cremation service until a burial gown was sent over.

“[Days later] I received a phone call … and she said, ‘This is such-and-such from pathology, I’ve got ashes for you to collect’, and I said, ‘I beg your pardon, what?’” she said.

“You were supposed to wait for the gown, you were also supposed to call us as to when the testing was finished so we could attend the cremation service that you hold in the chapel.”

Brie said she spoke with management at the pathology clinic shortly after learning her daughter had been cremated.

“I said to him I wanted an apology, I said I was going to get legal advice … he pretty much said almost nothing, they did not give us an apology either via the phone call or via a letter,” she said.

“He was very, very reserved in how much he said because, I mean, it was a major stuff up, but we were under the impression that this was not a common occurrence, it was obviously some human error, and we were so traumatised by the entire event we didn’t get legal advice.

“I just assumed they would refine their practices and the people involved would be reprimanded and ten months later almost the identical thing happened to the Santorini couple and I’ve since yesterday found out that it also happened to two other people.”

One of those other women told WAtoday she was considering launching a class action after not being notified when her child was being cremated so she could attend the service.

The woman, who did not want to speak publicly, said she had since learnt her experience was not an isolated incident.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers national head of medical negligence, Dimitra Dubrow, said several mothers had contacted her office after learning of the Santorini’s civil action.

“[The mothers] claim to have also been denied the opportunity to say goodbye to their stillborn or miscarried babies before they were cremated, or telling us that their requests in relation to the cremation of their baby weren’t honoured, which has been very distressing for them,” she said.

Pathwest, which runs KEMH pathology unit, has been contacted for comment.

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