Couple forced to keep baby’s remains in their fridge after NHS refused to take them

A couple have detailed their agony after being forced to keep their baby’s remains in their home fridge because the NHS refused to take them.

Laura and Lawrence Brody said they felt they had been ‘tipped into hell’ as they were sent home in a taxi from University Hospital Lewisham with their son in a tupperware tub.

The couple had gone to the south-east London hospital’s A&E department after Laura suffered a miscarriage at home four months into her pregnancy.

But they were told there was nowhere safe to store the remains and were made to sit in a general waiting room for five hours with their boy in a box on their laps.

The couple felt their only option was to take him home. 

‘I took a tupperware box containing my baby’s remains home from hospital in a taxi, cleared up some space in our fridge and put the box in there,’ Lawrence told the BBC.

He added: ‘It was a lonely, surreal moment clearing space in my fridge.’ Laura said the ordeal ‘just felt so grotesque’.

Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust has said a full investigation was under way ‘to understand where failings in care may have occurred’.

It comes amid a spate of maternity care scandals in the UK.

A couple have described the agony of being to forced to keep their baby’s remains in their home fridge after being sent home from University Hospital Lewisham (pictured)

Laura and Lawrence grew concerned when Laura started bleeding heavily almost four months into her pregnancy.

They went to the early pregnancy unit at University Hospital Lewisham and were told their baby still had a heartbeat and would survive.

How at least one in six pregnancies ends in a miscarriage 

One in six pregnancies in women who know they are pregnant become miscarriages.

But even more happen among women who don’t know they have conceived.

Miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is lost within the first 23 weeks after conception.

The main symptoms are bleeding from the vagina, which may be accompanied by lower abdominal pain.

There are various reasons women may have a miscarriage – it is common and is not usually caused by something they have done.

If a miscarriage happens in the second trimester – between weeks 14 and 26 – it may be a sign of an underlying problem.

Often, miscarriages are isolated events and women will go on to have successful pregnancies.

The majority of miscarriages can’t be prevented, although being generally healthy will help reduce the risk.

Losing three or more pregnancies in a row – known as recurrent miscarriages – is uncommon but still affects around one in 100 women. 

But after another scan days later, they were given the devastating news their baby had died.

The couple were sent home and told to wait until a bed became available for Laura to give birth to their dead son.

But two days later Laura woke up in severe pain and rushed to the bathroom where she delivered the baby. 

The couple phoned 999 but were told it was not an emergency so they wrapped their boy’s remains in a wet cloth, put him in a box and made their own way to A&E.

They said they were treated with no dignity as they were put in a general waiting room and ‘told to sit at the back’.

‘I was there holding my baby in a tupperware box, crying, with 20 or 30 other people in that waiting room,’ Laura told the BBC.

They waited there for nearly five hours in the ‘hot and stuffy’ A&E with their child’s remains sealed in the plastic tub.

Staff said there was nowhere safe to store him.

Lawrence said: ‘It was almost as though no-one wanted to acknowledge it. Because if they did, then they would have to deal with the problem.’

NHS guidance says people coming to A&E with baby’s remains ‘should be transferred to the gynaecology or maternity department’ and the ‘baby’s remains should be transferred with them, with facilities for sensitive storage’.

It adds that ‘information should be made available on issues such as post-mortems, sensitive disposal of remains and funeral options’.

Women are advised to bring in their baby’s remains so that tests can be carried out to work out why the pregnancy ended. 

In a statement, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: ‘We are deeply sorry and offer our sincerest condolences to Ms Brody and her partner for the tragic loss of their baby and these traumatic experiences.’

‘A full investigation is under way to understand where failings in care may have occurred so that any necessary changes and improvements can be made.’

The Miscarriage Association campaign group said Lawrence and Laura’s case was ‘unbearable’.

It said there should be cold spaces in all A&Es so that babies can be ‘safely, respectfully and carefully stored’. 

It comes as cases of potential malpractice at scandal-hit maternity units continue to emerge.

More than 1,800 families suffered trauma through the death or serious injury of their baby – or in some cases the mother – at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in the two decades up to 2019 in Britain’s worst maternity scandal.

A damning interim report by independent midwife Donna Ockenden in December 2020 highlighted a litany of cultural and clinical failures at the Shropshire trust in which mothers were routinely blamed for baby deaths.

The senior midwife has been appointed to lead an independent probe into maternity failings at a second trust, Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH).

At least nine babies and three mothers are believed to have died over the past three years at the trust, which runs 15 hospitals in the Midlands.

It has already paid out millions of pounds over 30 baby deaths and 46 infants who were left brain damaged.