Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has finally admitted being at fault for a grieving mother being wrongly informed there would be no ashes from her stillborn baby’s cremation.
Claire Clappison, of Hull, launched legal action against the Trust in a bid to find answers as to why she was wrongly informed she would not receive any ashes from her son Hayden’s cremation, after he was stillborn at just 18 weeks in October 2003.
Hayden’s ashes were in fact kept in storage until 2013, something Mrs Clappison only discovered after making her own enquiries when it came to light that some babies’ ashes may have been retained without their parents’ knowledge.
She found that Hayden’s ashes had been stored at Co-operative Funeralcare, and although they were then returned to her with apologies from both the funeral directors and the Trust, both initially denied being responsible for the mix-up.
Mrs Clappison remembered being told in the days prior to Hayden’s cremation, that there would be no ashes.
She also, when looking back through her memories and paperwork relating to Hayden as it approached the anniversary of his birthday, found an information leaflet from Hull and East Yorkshire Women and Children’s Hospital, given to her at the time.
In the leaflet it clearly states there ‘will be no ashes left’. The leaflet was dated as having being produced in 1998 by Castle Hill Maternity Hospital.
Trust admits error but disputes causing psychiatric injury
Now, after almost a year-and-a-half after Mrs Clappison launched legal action in a bid to secure answers and admissions, the Trust has finally admitted responsibility.
However, it still denies that its error caused any ‘recognisable psychiatric injury’, as has been claimed as part of the legal case.
Whilst welcoming the admission of error, Mrs Clappison says it is ‘dismissive’ and shows a ‘lack of understanding’ of what she has been through to deny causing any psychological harm.
“It has been really important to me to find out exactly what happened and who gave me the wrong information at the time, and I am glad that the Trust has now accepted it did give me the wrong information,” said Mrs Clappison, 37.
“I can’t understand though how they can say this hasn’t had a huge impact on me psychologically. Finding out Hayden’s ashes were in storage after a decade brought everything back to me. I had come to terms with what had happened and had dealt with the huge loss in my life, but this has meant both me and my family reliving it again.
“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 when there are no ashes. It is particularly hard at times like birthdays and Christmas, when you really need to have something to be able to remember and reflect.
“Then, when you suddenly find the ashes have been kept in storage, you relive your loss, as do your family. I have two children aged 12 and 14 now who were unaware, but we’ve had to explain to them what happened, and my ex-husband has had to go through it again.
“To dispute that they’ve caused me any psychological suffering is dismissive and shows they don’t understand what I have been through. I guess nobody can understand it if you’ve not been through it, but that doesn’t mean you can dismiss it.
“It has been on my mind every day for the past three-and-a-half years since I found out that Hayden’s ashes were just around the corner from where I lived for 10 years.
“Hopefully major lessons will have been learned as a result. It can’t be allowed to happen to any more to parents who suffer so much by the loss of their baby. It is completely unacceptable and inexcusable. Hopefully other parents who were also given the wrong information will also now receive an apology too.”
Hudgell Solicitors asking questions on behalf of seven more families
Andrew Petherbridge, of Hudgell Solicitors, represents Mrs Clappison and hopes the admission will help with bringing some closure for her after more than 13 years.
He is currently representing another seven families who also claim they were wrongly informed there would be no ashes from the cremations of their babies by the same Trust, and says he will now seek further clarity on those cases in relation of this admission.
The common theme in all cases – which date back as long as 23 years – has been that parents were either told by a representative that there would be no ashes, or they received a leaflet from the Trust.
What is now clear is the fact that the Trust has admitted that it was in some circumstances giving out the wrong information to parents, and it is highly unlikely that this happened just this once in the case of Mrs Clappison, but to many others too.
It is clear that Mrs Clappison was given the wrong information at the time about there being no ashes following Hayden’s cremation. If it were not for her being given this wrong advice she would have collected her son’s ashes.
As a result, for 10 years she reasonably believed that there were no ashes, only to find that they had been sat on a shelf at the funeral directors. The effect of this, discovering her son’s ashes had been kept in storage for a decade just around the corner from where she lived, has been enormous.
*Image from Hull Daily Mail