Does the disposal of a foetus of a human not reaching the 22nd week of pregnancy with medical waste not violate the right to dignified burial?

  • Rosita Dulinskaitė
Keywords: Embryo, human fetus, non-surviving fetus, 22 weeks of gestation, burial of remains, medical waste.


This article aims to answer the question of whether the disposal of a foetus of a human not reaching the 22nd week of pregnancy with medical waste does not violate the right to dignified burial. The paper seeks to clarify whether the conceived and unborn child can be the subject of human rights. By answering this question, one can look for a solution to the issue of the dignified burial of the foetus and the embryo of the perished human.

Medical science has undeniably proved that human life appears from the moment of conception, however, the jurisprudential approach to the subjective nature of the unborn child is not unanimous, and the aspiration to establish the rights of the developing life in the pre-natal stage becomes a decisive challenge. The burning of non-surviving of human embryos and foetuses with medical waste reveals the attitude of the law towards unborn life.

In order to achieve the goal, the case law of foreign countries and international treaties and conventions are examined. The research carried out shows that a decision regarding to the subjectivity of unborn life is inherent to the law of many foreign countries, Lithuania being not an exception. They Lithuanian law does not have an explicit and unambiguous definition of the legal status of the human’s embryo and foetus, and has no concerns on its legal protection and the rights.

 The Law on the Amendment of the Law on the Burial of Human Remains was considered and adopted in 2017. It equates non-surviving human foetuses and embryos to human remains and allows them to be buried or cremated with dignity. This change has altered the inhumane legal attitude to the unborn life that has been prevailing so far. However, Lithuania is one of the few countries comparing the remains of embryos and foetuses to human remains without establishing the boundary of pre-natal age. It can be argued that there are attempts to provide a certain legal subjectivity for embryos and foetuses, but on the other hand, these initiatives have not yet been implemented to full extent.

The article is aimed at analyzing the legal status of human foetus and embryo in the law of Lithuania and foreign countries, and to compare the case law of the front countries concerning the boreal procedure of non-surviving foetuses and embryos. To determine whether the foetus and embryo can be the subject of human rights. It also seeks to analyze whether parental rights to the dignified burial of not surviving foetus remains are not violated by burning it with medical waste.

 Following the comparable, systemic, descriptive-explanatory and teleological analysis of scientific literature, case law and the American Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of the UN, Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human. Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine, the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, legislation of the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa, the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the Civil Code and the Penal Code, it can be seen that the hypothesis raised in the master's thesis was partly confirmed. The burning of the remains of non-surviving human foetuses up to the 22nd week of pregnancy with medical waste violates the right to dignified burial of remains thereby undermining the right of mourning parents to dignified farewell with the non-surviving foetus.


Download data is not yet available.
How to Cite
Dulinskaitė, R. (2019). Does the disposal of a foetus of a human not reaching the 22nd week of pregnancy with medical waste not violate the right to dignified burial?. Law Review, 1(19), 2-22.