Photo/IllutrationThe Saitama Red Cross Hospital in Saitama’s Chuo Ward on May 15 (Ryohei Miyawaki)

SAITAMA--A janitor at a hospital here mistakenly flushed a stillborn baby down a toilet in March, according to the city's public health center and other sources.

The hospital has since apologized to the woman who delivered it and her family.

The incident occurred while the 36-year-old was hospitalized at Saitama Red Cross Hospital from March 18. The next day, she unexpectedly delivered the 14-week-old stillborn baby while sitting on the toilet.

After she moved to another room, a member of the cleaning staff mistakenly flushed the toilet, according to the center and other sources.

The baby's heartbeat was confirmed as having stopped four days before the stillbirth.

According to her 39-year-old husband, who was accompanying her at the time, the woman, who had entered the delivery room, felt a need to urinate and got permission from her doctor to use the bathroom.

At the hospital staff's instruction, she returned to the delivery room and waited. The couple then heard the sound of a flushing toilet and screaming by hospital staff.

The hospital apologized to the woman and her family in writing. It also revealed that the hospital has taken measures to prevent a similar incident, such as by revising manuals for cleaning staff, according to her husband.

An official of the division of the hospital handling safety management told The Asahi Shimbun on May 15, "I can't comment on the matter at this time."

The couple had hoped to name their stillborn baby and keep a picture and handprint in memoriam.

"We offer prayers to an empty urn every day," the husband said. "My wife is traumatized by the sound of a flushing toilet. I don't want a similar incident to occur again."