2nd Stillborn's Remains May Have Gone to Laundry

Updated: 09/18/2013 3:29 PM KSTP.com By: Maricella Miranda

Regions Hospital officials believe a second set of a stillborn baby's remains were in the same basket of linens sent to a laundry service earlier this week by the hospital, the facility reported Friday.

The second remains are of a 19-week-old stillborn, according to Regions officials. The first set of remains discovered were of a 22-week-old stillborn baby.

The remains were found Tuesday by employees at the laundry service in Red Wing, Minn., which is about 45 minutes from the Twin Cities. Regions Hospital is located in St. Paul.

"As we investigated, our records indicated that there should have been another set of remains in the same location," stated Chris Boese, chief nursing officer at Regions.

"We have now ruled out that those remains went to the funeral home or to another location," Boese stated. "A tragic human error was made and we believe both sets of remains were mistaken as empty linens and placed in the laundry at the same time by a hospital worker."

On Wednesday, Boese said during a press conference, "On behalf of Regions Hospital, we are really sorry and saddened that this incident happened."

The 22-week-old baby was born April 4. The hospital has reached out to the family, officials said. Boese declined to give more information about the family, citing federal privacy laws.

It's not unusual to have a stillborn baby in the hospital's morgue for nearly two weeks after birth, Boese said. 

The remains had been wrapped in linens in its morgue and were mistaken for laundry that was to be sent out for cleaning, hospital officials said. The service collects laundry from the hospital about twice a day.

Hospital officials planned to interview all staff involved in the incident to determine how this happened, Boese said. Procedures are in place that should've prevented the mistake, according to the hospital. Officials are working to ensure it doesn't happen again, she said.

On Friday, the hospital reported that staff have completed a review of pathology records from the entire last year. All other stillborn remains have been properly accounted for.

Also, the hospital reportedly has improved its identification process that includes a visual identification, enhanced its tracking process and added an additional level of security and supervision to the area.

The facility also is cooperating fully with regulatory inquiries from the Minnesota Department of Health to ensure it never happens again.

The hospital is providing counseling for employees of the linen service, as well as employees at the hospital.

More than 2,500 babies are born at Regions a year, Boese said.

About 20 to 25 are stillborn babies. The hospital's proper procedure when a stillborn baby is born is to work closely with the family to determine how to handle the remains, she said.

The remains then are secured in the hospital's morgue on site. In some cases, the hospital will work with someone in the community to take care of the remains, Boese said.

An Associated Press review of news coverage in recent years found accounts of a dozen similar incidents from 1996 through 2009 at hospitals across North America. In some cases the body went through the wash before it was found. Some cases led to legal action.

The AP search also found several other cases where the remains of stillborn babies were allegedly lost, discarded in the trash, disposed of without the family's knowledge or kept indefinitely.

Read a press release by Regions Hospital on Wednesday about the incident.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Previous KSTP news coverage about the incident can be found in the video above.