Hudgell Solicitors is helping a mother seek answers as to why she was informed that no ashes would be left from her stillborn baby’s cremation – only for them to be found stored at a funeral directors 10 years later.
Andy Petherbridge has written to Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, asking it to explain why a leaflet was given to Claire Clappison, informing her she would not receive any ashes from her son Hayden’s cremation, after he was stillborn at just 18 weeks in October 2003.
Mrs Clappison had no idea her son’s ashes were in storage, until it came to light in 2013 that some ashes could in fact have been retained. It was then that Mrs Clappison decided to make her own enquiries into the matter.
It transpired that ashes from Hayden’s cremation had actually been stored in Hull for a decade at Co-operative Funeralcare, and they were returned to Mrs Clappison with apologies from both the funeral directors, and the Trust.
Mrs Clappison, 36, has since campaigned for greater clarity as to how the error was made, and instructed Hudgell Solicitors to support her in investigating the issue, believing many other parents may have been left in the same situation.
She remembered being visited by someone in the days prior to Hayden’s cremation, who she believes to have been the hospital chaplain, and they discussed the order of service with her and said there would be no ashes.
As part of recent investigations, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has said the chaplain “would not normally have visited a family at home in these circumstances, unless specifically asked to.”
However, having looked back through all of her memories and paperwork related to Hayden as it approached the anniversary of his birthday, on October 12, Mrs Clappison discovered documentation, in the form of an information leaflet from Hull and East Yorkshire Women and Children’s Hospital, which was given to her at the time.
In it, the leaflet advises “you should be aware, however, that with a baby there will be no ashes left.” The leaflet is dated as having being produced in 1998 by Castle Hill Maternity Hospital.
Now, Mrs Clappison, of North Bransholme, hopes she can help more parents who may be in a similar situation.
“It has been really important to me to find out exactly what happened, why we were given the wrong information at the time, and who was giving that wrong information out, as I really believe there could be lots of other parents who were never given their babies’ ashes,” she said.
“It has a massive impact on parents. After going through the difficulties of losing your baby, and then the funeral, you feel like you come away with nothing to remember your baby with. It is particularly hard at times like birthdays and Christmas, when you really need to have something to be able to remember and reflect.
“I had nothing really for those occasions with Hayden, and for 10 years his ashes were sat in storage at the funeral directors just around the corner from where I lived.
“It was only because it was the anniversary of his birthday recently that I got his memory box out, and as we had been going through this legal process I looked back at all the literature from the time. Given that the leaflet is dated 1998, and I was given it in 2003, it does pose the question as to how many people may have been wrongly been told no ashes had been left.
“Over those 10 years, Hayden’s granddad passed away, and his ashes could have been scattered alongside his granddad’s, which would have been really important for the family. These are important moments for families which have been denied to us, and maybe others.”
Mr Petherbridge, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “Mrs Clappison asked us to support her in looking for answers as to why she was given the wrong information following the cremation of her baby boy Hayden in 2003, as she feared there may be a number of other bereaved parents who were wrongly told there were no ashes following the cremation of their babies.
“In our correspondence, the funeral directors have denied that is was of one of their employees who advised Mrs Clappison that there would be no ashes left at the conclusion of the cremation. The Trust has stated that at this stage they cannot admit any liability.
“However, on the evidence we have seen up to this point, and given the contents of the booklet which we know was provided to Mrs Clappison by the Trust, stating clearly that with a baby there will be no ashes left, it does now appear that it was the Trust which was giving out wrong information.
“This is obviously a matter which has caused Mrs Clappison a great deal of upset and stress and is something which should not happen to any grieving parent who loses their child.
“It seems almost incomprehensible that such an error could be made, but the question which remains now is just how many parents were given that wrong advice.”