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Baby due for cremation found alive at funeral home

Updated: 2013-11-22 07:18
By Ma Chenguang and Cao Shurong in Hefei ( China Daily)

Baby due for cremation found alive at funeral home

A baby receives treatment at the Anhui Provincial Children's Hospital in Anhui province on Thursday after being falsely pronounced dead by a doctor. Zhang Duan / Xinhua

A month-old baby boy in Hefei, Anhui province, who was sent by a hospital to a funeral home for cremation, was found to be alive on Wednesday.

The child has been returned to Anhui Provincial Children's Hospital, where healthcare workers were trying to save him on Thursday. The infant, who has a congenital abnormality and other life-threatening illnesses, had been given up by his parents at the hospital. On Monday, he was pronounced dead.

Two days later, a nursing assistant sent the baby, along with the bodies of two other children, to the funeral home.

Liu Tiesheng, the hospital's vice-president, said on Thursday that the baby is now in an intensive care unit and his condition remains critical.

Liu said the hospital has an expert team of medical workers trying to save the boy but "he is not in a good condition".

The doctor who pronounced the boy dead has been suspended and the nursing assistant dismissed for "failing to ask the doctor to double-check before sending him to the funeral parlor", said the hospital's publicity official, who gave her name as Wang.

The provincial health department labeled the incident a "serious diagnostic error" on Thursday.

It blamed the mistake on the doctor and the "chaotic management" of the hospital's newborn ward.

The authority also demanded the hospital conduct a review of practices and performance.

The baby was born premature and taken to the hospital on Oct 28. On Nov 12, the parents gave him up and put him at the disposal of the hospital.

The hospital continued to care for the child, but on Monday, the baby's primary doctor, identified as Zha, issued a death certificate.

The nursing assistant, Sheng, was too busy to arrange the delivery of the boy to the funeral home immediately. On Tuesday, the child was placed in a cardboard box and left alone in a separate ward.

The following day, Sheng arranged the boy's transfer to the funeral home without carefully checking his condition.

Hefei Funeral Parlor official Wang Hong said on Thursday that the hospital had provided complete documentation, including the death certificate and a letter from the boy's parents authorizing his cremation.

In the letter, the parents said they had given the baby up to the hospital and did not wish to receive his ashes after the cremation, the funeral home official said.

In a routine examination of the body on Wednesday, funeral home workers discovered the boy was alive. He was rushed back to the hospital.

The boy was born around Oct 21, the hospital said on Thursday.

A hospital worker who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when the parents were contacted on Wednesday they repeated that they had given up the baby and did not want to be involved.

Contact the writers at machenguang@chinadaily.com.cn and caoshurong@chinadaily.com.cn

Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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