Slater and Gordon have today initiated proceedings against a hospital after it was discovered that ‘a clerical error’ led to a stillborn baby being buried in a mass unmarked grave five months after she died – without her mother’s consent.
Hannah Cotterill, 29, gave birth to her daughter Lily on February 10 2011 at 24 weeks at Dewsbury and District Hospital.
Lily died just an hour after she was born and Hannah and her husband Nathan made the decision to have her cremated through the hospital’s Bereavement Services team who offered to help her with the arrangements and legal aspects of dealing with her daughters death.
But last month Hannah was contacted by Kirklees Council who sent her a letter asking her to take better care of her daughter’s grave. Enclosed was a photo of an overgrown burial plot, just a stones throw from Hannah’s house covered in weeds and plants that Hannah and her family had no knowledge of.
After contacting the council she was informed that they had buried her daughter in a grave with several other babies on 15 July 2011, five months after she died. Dewsbury Hospital then admitted that there had been ‘a clerical error’. Hannah contacted Slater and Gordon after finding herself with nowhere left to turn for answers to what happened to her daughter.
Hannah said, “We are devastated. It’s heart-breaking to think she has been in a grave just a stone’s throw away from our home all this time. This just isn’t what we wanted. We were so clear we didn’t want her to be buried and to now find out she has been buried with other babies just horrifies me.
“No one can explain why this has happened and instead everyone keeps saying it was the fault of a former employee that no longer works at the hospital. We specifically requested a cremation and they advised us that it would take place within two weeks of her death and they would scatter her ashes on a memorial garden. It never crossed my mind that this wouldn’t happen. I just have so many questions. I have no idea where she was for the five months between her birth and being buried. To make matters worse the grave was so poorly kept. If she had to be buried we would have done it ourselves.”
Slater and Gordon have contacted the Chief Executive of Dewsbury Hospital and are waiting to hear their response.
Slater and Gordon Lawyer, who is representing the Cotterill family, said, “To date there has been no reason given as to why our client was pressured into making a decision within an hour of Lily’s death yet the hospital then stored Lily’s body for five months before arranging the funeral.
“Our client and her husband have been treated appallingly by the hospital and to receive notification of the burial of their daughter in an unkempt, mass grave by a letter from the local authority is of the utmost cruelty and is a scandal in the true sense of the word.
“The dismay, distress and anxiety caused by the events will affect our client and her family for years to come. The fact that Lily is buried only a short distance from our client’s home without her knowing has added greatly to the distress that she has suffered since Lily’s death. In my 26 years of legal work I have never heard of anything like this.
“What worries me more than anything about this case is the thought that this may have happened to more families. There seems to have been a fundamental breakdown in processes at the hospital and women who were grieving and vulnerable have not been listened to. We hope that we can get a full apology for Hannah and some answers to her questions.”
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