Until now, dead babies weighing less than 500 grams were not recognised by German authorities as having a legal identity – they could not be included on the civic register and were often thus not released or accepted for burial.
As many German states require a person to be on the civic register before they can be buried, hospitals have often refused to give the body of an unregistered stillborn baby, or premature baby that died after being born, to the parents.
While some cemeteries buried them anonymously in an area for “Sternenkinder”, or “star babies”, German law said that deceased babies below 500 grams should be “disposed hygienically and taking moral sensibilities into account.”
The cabinet changed this law on Wednesday after parents whose twins were stillborn – one heavy enough to be registered and buried, the other not – petitioned parliament and the Family Minister Kristina Schröder.
Now parents of very small babies who die or are stillborn will have the option to legally name, and bury, their child, no matter how many grams it weighed when born.
The topic was raised in the Bundestag after the couple who were allowed to register one of their dead twins but not the other, gathered 40,000 signatures calling for a change in the law, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper said on Wednesday.