A fishing trip in Russia's Urals ended with cries of horror as a man found canisters filled with human embryos, some already shaped to baby bodies.
Lids on the bright blue containers apparently unlocked as the canisters hit the ground, and many embryos spilled out. The little bodies, no longer than 15 centimeters, shrank, turning into mummies.
“A friend of mine called at night and said he went fishing and wanted to get some wood for his fire. He found some abandoned water canisters and wanted to take them for his house. And when he came up, he saw… little baby bodies,” a local told Russia’s Channel 4.
Arriving Monday morning, police found 248 embryos aged 12-16 weeks in and around the four canisters. Labels attached to tiny hands and legs listed family names of assumed mothers and some digit codes, which may refer to the pregnancy period, date of abortion or the hospital where the body originated from.
The 50-liter canisters filled with formalin seem to have been thrown out of a vehicle not far from a road leading to Nevyansk, a town on the slopes of the Ural Mountains.
Nevyansk authorities immediately said the canisters could not have originated in their town.
“Our area is too small; we can't have so many stillborns, miscarriages or artificial abortions,” they said.
Later it was revealed that the horrifying content was “biological waste” from at least three hospitals in Ekaterinburg, the region's major city.
“It appears a waste disposal company has failed to carry out its duties properly,” remark local authorities as the investigation continues. The Ministry of Health has been requested to determine which companies provide embryo disposal services to Ekaterinburg hospitals.
In Russia, embryos are subject to immediate disposal as they are classified high hazard waste. Prior to disposal, they are to be kept in special packages, not in canisters with formalin. It is also out of practice to attach labels with any information, at least in Ekaterinburg hospitals.
But the bodies found near the Urals not only fall out of this description – the labels show they may have been stored for over ten years.
Some medical experts believe the embryos might have been meant for studies or other purposes, as they contain stem cells. The cells are widely used for immune illnesses treatment and in cosmetic procedures.
Prosecutors are talking tentatively of criminal charges, but most probably the guilty party will bear an administrative punishment.