YOKOHAMA – Police arrested the head of a now-defunct obstetrics and gynecology clinic in Yokohama on Wednesday for disposing of aborted fetuses in normal garbage.
Keido Harada, who operated Isezaki Clinic until it was closed in August, has owned up to the misdeed, Kanagawa Prefectural Police said. He earlier told Yokohama officials he did it to cut operating costs at the clinic.
It is the first time a doctor has been arrested in connection with the handling of aborted fetuses, some of which fall in a legal gray zone.
According to police, Harada put 15 aborted fetuses — each under 12 weeks old — together with infectious waste generated at the clinic, including bloodstained gauze, into normal garbage between January and June.
He then commissioned a waste-handling firm to dispose of them without notifying the company that the garbage contained infectious materials, as required by a law regulating waste disposal, police said.
Under a law covering graves and burials, aborted fetuses 12 weeks or older need to be cremated and buried like normal human remains.
However, there are no clear legal provisions on the handling of aborted fetuses less than 12 weeks old.
The waste disposal law stipulates that any waste materials generated at medical institutions that are smeared with blood must be treated as “waste requiring special control” because they can cause infections. The law sets strict guidelines to disinfect the materials before disposing of them.
The waste disposal law does not clearly mention whether aborted fetuses are to be handled as “infectious” materials.
But the Environment Ministry, responding to an inquiry from Kanagawa police over the case, said earlier that aborted fetuses under 12 weeks old will legally have to be considered “infectious waste.”
A ministry official was also quoted as telling police that these fetuses should in principle be buried with respect in the same way as those 12 weeks or older.