2015 年 33 巻 p. 1-9
Fetal tissues and organs are useful for regenerative medicine or other medical research. In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare formed a committee in 2002 to examine regulations on clinical research using human stem cells. The committee had planned to settle on regulations including for stem cells collected from dead fetuses(for example, fetal neural stem cells) though they were exempt from the regulations in the end. Thus, though fetal tissues and organs are usually used in medical research, it is not clear how dead fetuses are disposed or buried and what is the ethically proper procedure to handle them. In this article, I survey procedures for the handling of dead fetuses and their legal status in Germany to clarify the problems involved in this task. Legal regulations concerning the treatment of dead fetuses have been reformed since the late 1990s in Germany. According to the German Civil Status Act, parents of a stillborn child, that is, a dead fetus weighing more than 500g, may register the child's name in birth records. Though a miscarried child, that is, a dead fetus weighing less than 500g, cannot be registered in any records, a certification is issued in which the child's name is entered in accordance with the parents' request. As for burial, it is governed by the law of each state. Most states require parents to bury a fetus when it exceeds a certain weight, and permit burial of a fetus upon parents' request if the weight is below threshold. These regulations were induced as a result of petitions from parents who had experienced a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Thus, when considering the procedures to treat dead fetuses, both the dignity of the unborn child and the feelings of the bereaved parents must be taken into account.