Letter: Baptising the stillborn

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The Independent Online
Sir: We were saddened to read of what sounds an unimaginative and uncompassionate refusal by one of our clergy colleagues to baptise the stillborn child of Keith Vaz, MP ('The baby we love, but never knew', 10 November). We write as Anglican and Roman Catholic Chaplains to St George's Healthcare NHS Trust where, sadly, we have to face the deaths of babies before and at the time of birth, and where we hope that the approach of every staff member involved will be one of respect for the parents and concern to do what is best for them.

Baptising newly delivered stillborn babies has never posed any problem, pastoral or theological, for us since modern medical science is at one with traditional moral theology in recognising that the exact moment of death is impossible to determine. For that reason, if parents so wish, we frequently baptise these children, recognising the possibility of a grey area, but attempting to make a sensitive pastoral response to a human tragedy with some confidence that our ecclesiastical superiors and eventually the Almighty will take a lenient view of our behaviour.

Yours faithfully,

HILARY JOHNSON

Anglican Chaplain

IAN AINSWORTH-SMITH

Anglican Chaplain

G. WINCHESTER

RC Chaplain

St George's Hospital

London, SW17

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