In A Nutshell
Medical waste is a commonly used source of fuel for generating electricity that can be used to power and heat homes. Of course, this “medical waste” often contains, among other things, aborted fetuses. It’s no surprise that a lot of people are outraged by the idea of “burning dead babies,” as some have described the process, but when you sidestep the graphic language, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds.
The Whole Bushel
According to the EPA, 90 percent of the medical waste that comes out of hospitals is incinerated. When you’re dealing with potentially hazardous materials, fire is generally the safest way to go. And recently, waste-to-energy facilities have started taking that medical waste and throwing it into their incineration plants to generate electricity. It’s relatively efficient and it takes something that would just get burned anyway and puts it to good use.
But when you get down to the gritty details, what exactly is medical waste? Expired medications, faulty equipment, and soiled bedsheets are a given, but what about the organic waste? What about the amputated limbs, or the cancerous organ tissue that gets removed during surgery? What about the aborted fetuses?
As it turns out, it’s all fair game, and that’s been causing a ton of controversy—especially since a waste-to-energy plant in Marion County, Oregon was found to be accepting medical waste shipments containing fetal tissue. The electricity generated by that plant powers the majority of the county’s homes and safely disposes of about 700 tons of medical waste per year. They process 90 percent of the county’s waste and generate 13 megawatts of electricity annually—electricity which would otherwise need to come from coal or oil.
But, according to a few creative headlines, none of that matters because all that electricity comes from the “flesh of innocent little human beings.” While that’s unnecessarily brutal, there really is no pleasant way to describe the process, and the Marion County Board of Commissioners claims to be “outraged and disgusted” that fetal tissue made it into their medical waste.
A similar story made headlines in March 2014 in the UK when it was discovered that hospitals had incinerated over 15,000 aborted and premature fetuses in waste-to-energy plants. Many of them were burned in on-site furnaces that went on to provide heat for the very same hospitals. Again, people were outraged.
But really, aside from the graphic mental image the process evokes, there’s nothing outrageous about it. Plenty of world governments allow the burning of medical waste for power generation, and fetal incineration is often mandated in state health codes. As unpleasant as it may be to consider, the fact is that millions of babies die in the hospital, whether through abortion, miscarriage, or complications at birth. For the vast majority of those cases, the resulting tissue, for lack of a better word, is required to be incinerated.
In North Carolina, regulations require fetal remains to be either buried—in a medical waste landfill—or incinerated. In Texas, if the remains aren’t incinerated, they’re destroyed by “grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer.” It’s a dirty process all around, but unfortunately it’s a necessary one. In the UK alone, there are 11 stillbirths per day, and one out of seven pregnancies is a miscarriage. No matter where they’re incinerated, the end result is the same. Isn’t it better to turn those losses into something better, something meaningful?
Show Me The Proof
Basura Medical Waste Resources: Treatment of Medical Waste
LifeNews: Officials Outraged Plant Burning Aborted Babies for Electricity
Renew America: The Gates of Hell: Aborted babies used as waste to generate electricity
The Telegraph: Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals
Marion County Waste-To-Energy Facility Information
Texas Administrative Code 25.1.1.K.1.136