Stillborn infants- what are the funeral rites of different religions?

What are the official religions’ positions on giving stillborn infants funeral and burial rites?

I know that Catholic families here will often have funerals for their stillborn infants. Is this in accordance with Church teaching? What are the beliefs of other religions about this?

One day I’d like to be an OB/GYN and unfortunately stillbirths, late misacarriages and early neonatal deaths are a fact of life. I’d like to know this information so as to avoid saying the wrong thing to a grieving family (e.g. asking if they have made funeral arrangements if their religion doesn’t believe such things are appropriate).

Fight my ignorance.

We suffered two miscarriages, both around the 22 week mark; at this point (in the UK) the hospital is not legally obliged to treat the miscarried fetus as anything more than medical waste, however, taking a broader view, including the psychological impact on the parents, it turns out the hospital is incredibly sensitive and careful about the whole matter and far exceeded its obligations; I would imagine this to be generally the case.

After (I think) 24 weeks; it’s considered a stillbirth and the hospital initiates funeral proceedings pretty much automatically, but as we were near the borderline, they bent the rules and very carefully asked us what we wanted to do; we had the option of cremation (with no ashes returned, meaning, I think, that this would be performed in the onsite incinerator), or burial in the public cemetery across the road.

We chose burial and everything was just handled for us; We were members of a Methodist Church at the time, where the prevailing (although largely unspoken) view was that individual life began at conception. Our minister presided over the brief and simple funeral; We were not billed for anything; the city provides the burial plot and I think the undertakers provided their services as a charitable donation in kind.

But to get back to your question; yes; most modern forms of Christianity consider a stillborn or miscarried infant to be a dead person and where possible, will act accordingly.

If you’re taking up an neonatal care position in a hospital, they will most likely have a very clearly defined policy as to how this scenario is to be dealt with; you will not be in the dark about this when the crunch comes. Many hospitals here have a chaplain and/or other resident religious ministers, who will also assist. Not sure if that’s the same where you are.

Still-born infants and Catholicism.

From experience…the full term baby, delivered deceased, was issued a birth and death certificate simultaneously by the Catholic hospital. The hospital even encouraged pictures be taken (closure).

All subsequent arrangements were completely different than a ‘normal’ passing. There was only a burial (in Catholic cemetery) and brief statement by the priest.

In retrospect, lacking baptism and indoctrination into the Church, any arrangements by the Priest are viewed as mere courtesy, rather than proper right or protocol (sacrament) extended to indoctrinated members.

Catholic Church has the “Sacrament of Death”, whichI believe has certain pre-requisites, such as baptism.

Some folks liked (chose that word carefully) to go out of their way to say that the deceased infant could not be ‘saved’ or would not have eternal life in heavan.

Thank god I am an atheist.

Mangetout- I am sorry for your loss.

I do know the policy of our hospitals regarding late miscarriages and stillbirths, and it is much as you outlined. There are usually mementos, possibly a naming ceremony of some kind, and the parents are invited to write in a Book of Remembrance that is kept in the hospital Chapel.

The cremation BTW isn’t done in the hospital incinerator, it’s done in the crematorium, there are no ashes because the remains are simply too small.

It is SOP here to offer burial or cremation by the hospital or to ask the parents if they would prefer to make arrangements themselves with a undertaker. You will gather from my location that about 97% of my patients are Catholic and I was thinking this might not be an appropriate policy for members of other faiths- I don’t know, which is why I’m asking.

I was wondering just if there were some people who would have a particular ritual they might like to perform, or if there was anyone for whom it would be inappropriate to ask those questions- specifically any culture or religion which had different ways of dealing with a stillbirth as opposed to the loss of an older child or adult.

The Catholic Church has no such sacrament. The closest thing would be the sacrament of Annointing of the Sick (this used to be referred to as Last Rites, but it can be performed any number of times during a person’s life, if they’re sick). But the Annointing of the Sick is performed only for live subjects, and there is not necessarily even the expectation that death is imminent. If an unbaptized person were dying, the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick could not be used, but nor would it be necessary: If the person (or the person’s guardians, in the case of an infant) desired a religious rite preparatory to death, baptism itself would do everything that Annointing would (you could perform the annointing right after the baptism, but according to Catholic theology, it would have no additional effect). But if a child were stillborn, there would be no opportunity for any Catholic sacrament; the matter would be entirely in God’s hands.

There is the option for a conditional baptism, which can take various forms, such as “If you are alive, then I baptize you in the name of the Father…” Here is one online reference. There is another form which I can’t

Sorry, hit submit too soon. There is another form which may now be passe, used in the case of severe and soon-to-be-fatal birth defects, “If you are human, then I baptize you…” Can’t find a good on-line example of that, though.

Finally there is the conditional form used with converts from another Christian church where there is some question of the validity of the original baptism, in which case the form “If you are not baptized, then I baptize you…” is used.

Historically, Judaism has no specific rituals or practices specific to stillbirth. Speedy burial of the intact body is the preferred method of handling any deceased person. Cremation is generally not acceptable, although I certainly know Jewish people* who have stated that this is what they want done with their own remains.

Assume that the parents will want to make their own arrangements and ask accordingly. If you are in a position such that you must make assumptions about what they would have wanted, I’d say no cremation, no autopsy unless required by law, no organ donation, burial within 24 hours.

*For instance, I have specified that my own body, Jewish or not, is to be parcelled out wherever practical, with the unusable bits to be cremated and scattered.