PARIS (AP) -- Investigators probing the shocking discovery of hundreds of fetuses and stillborn babies stored in a Paris hospital morgue are likely to find the practice is widespread in France, a top medical specialist said Wednesday.
A day after officials said 351 stillborn babies and fetuses were kept at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Hospital's morgue -- some for two decades -- more than 100 worried families called a hot line to inquire about their cases, hospital authorities said.
Investigators were probing how such a breach of French law could have happened, and why. However, one top geneticist and medical ethicist said he was not surprised.
"I think that there are fetuses and stillborn infants in all maternity wards at university hospitals," Dr. Axel Kahn, a member of France's national ethics committee, told The Associated Press.
"Once, it was the norm ... Researchers who needed them for their work asked obstetricians not to dispose of them."
The law was changed in the mid-1990s to prevent the practice.
Current French law calls for bodies of unclaimed stillborn babies to be cremated within 10 days. Fetuses cannot be used for medical purposes except with the parents' consent. In that case, the bodies must be cremated within six months.
Even after the laws were changed, some specialists at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul may have wanted to keep the remains to do genetic testing on them one day, Kahn said.