How Do Generators Dispose of Amputated Body Parts?

Regulations governing medical waste are defined at a state, rather than a federal level. Adding yet a further level of complexity, authority for medical waste rules often comes from multiple agencies at the state level including state departments of health and environmental agencies.

While you may be familiar with sharps waste and red bag waste, what happens with amputated body parts once they are removed in a medical setting? Hospitals have different rules about how long to keep the specimen, in case the pathologist wants to see something else, but they’re not kept forever.

Each year, there are thousands of major limb amputations carried out nationally. Typically, when limbs are amputated, a patient signs a waiver giving up ownership of their surgical leavings to a pathological lab. Patients often have the option to donate their limbs to science, however if they choose not to, hospitals will dispose of limbs as medical waste. 

Typically, once disposed of, body parts are incinerated. This is important to reduce the chances of contamination, but it is also done on parts with no known pathogens. It is also to keep landfills clean and to not shock or scare sanitation workers, not to mention stir a possible investigation into a homicide case. 

Per the Environmental Protective Agency, “Medical waste incineration involves the burning of wastes produced by hospitals, veterinary facilities, and medical research facilities. These wastes include both infectious (‘red bag’) medical wastes as well as non-infectious, general housekeeping wastes.”

Amputated Limbs in the News 

These headlines are a good reason why we have proper medical waste disposal regulations in place.

In 2015, a Key Largo, Florida, man sued Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables for emotional distress after police discovered his severed leg in a waste management facility four weeks after his amputation.

Human body parts are among hundreds of tons of waste from UK hospitals, which have been allowed to pile up by disposal company Healthcare Environment Services. The company has been found to be in breach of its permits at five sites in England which deal with clinical waste and a criminal investigation has been launched.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that amputated limbs and pharmaceutical waste were among the matter which had not been properly disposed of.

Red Bags can help your facility develop a comprehensive medical waste disposal plan that adheres to all regulations, and yes, this includes amputated limbs. 

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