Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD

Baby's body lost in hospital linen

LONDON, England -- The body of a premature baby was accidentally put into a laundry bin and then washed with dirty sheets at a UK hospital, officials have admitted.

James Kelly Fernandez was born 17 weeks premature weighing just one pound, one ounce (0.5 kilogrammes) on November 17 and died shortly afterwards.

His body was lost among piles of dirty linen after it was taken to the morgue at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, southeast of London.

A hospital spokeswoman said the incident was a "tragic mistake" and added that the hospital had apologised privately to James' parents, Patrick Kelly, 36 and his Spanish girlfriend Amaia Fernandez, 25.

She said work practices had been changed to prevent any repetition of the error.

"Due to a tragic mistake, the body of the baby was somehow transferred to a linen basket in the hospital mortuary and taken to an external laundry where the body was later discovered," the spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

"A full internal inquiry was instigated immediately the incident was discovered to understand how this tragic event occurred."

Helen Moffatt, chief executive of the hospital's governing body, Queen Mary's Hospital Trust, told the BBC that the morgue's laundry basket was next to a cabinet holding the bodies of dead babies.

"I offer my unreserved apology to the family," she said. "They have been through the most horrible and distressing time since this mistake was made."

The error emerged when undertakers arrived to collect James' body from the hospital mortuary on December 13. When workers were unable to find the body, the hospital launched a broader search.

It was found the following morning on a conveyor belt at the industrial cleaning firm Sunlight Healthcare Services, 13 miles (20.8 kilometres) away in Brixton, south London.

Kelly told the UK Sun newspaper of his distress when told by a police officer that his son's body had been washed in boiling water and suffered fractures to almost every bone.

"He told me James had been put through a washing cycle for contaminated clothes from the mortuary which meant it had to go on the hottest wash," The Sun quoted Kelly as saying.

"A dog would not have gone through that. This was not simply a tragic accident, it was incompetence and somebody needs to be held responsible."

James' funeral was eventually held on January 3, in Lewisham, south east London.




Back to the top