A woman who recently gave birth was horrified to discover that her placenta had been stolen, stewed and eaten by a hospital cleaner.
Lu Yangang, husband of the new mum in Changzhou City, in East China’s Jiangsu Province, has since received an official apology from the hospital over the bizarre and unorthodox incident.
Lu’s wife gave birth to their healthy baby boy at the Wuxing Subdistrict Community Health Service Center earlier this month, and the couple told doctors that they wished to keep the mum’s placenta.
The often discarded organ is believed to have health benefits and is eaten by those practicing traditional Chinese medicine, but Lu’s wife wanted to bring it back to her hometown in neighbouring Anhui Province for an entirely different purpose.
She explained: "My mother-in-law asked me to bring the placenta back so they could bury it there for good luck. It’s part of tradition."
The doctors agreed to the family’s request and signed all the necessary documents to hand over the woman’s placenta after a two-day inspection period.
However, when the time came for the mum to be discharged, staff at the facility said the organ had been "lost".
Li Wenwu, the hospital’s vice dean of medicine, said the family "rioted" at the facility and demanded an answer, and they were finally told the embarrassing truth.
A mix-up somewhere in the administrative process led hospital employees to believe that the placenta was to be discarded as waste - and it was then taken by the cleaner, who brought it home to fulfill her own belief in the age-old practices of traditional Chinese medicine.
The hospital said the cleaner "turned the placenta into a stew and ate it."
Vice Dean Li said the cleaner and the Lu family later reached a private agreement over the matter, and that they would not compensate the couple in any way for their employee’s mistake.
But Li also criticised the couple’s protests and rioting inside the hospital, calling it "inappropriate".
Placentophagy - the practice of eating one’s placenta after birth - has been practiced in China for more than two millennia.
The organ, which can be ingested in several ways and forms, is thought to have anti-ageing properties as well as the ability to help new mum’s against postpartum depression and improve the supply of breast milk.