The parents of the critically-ill boy, who was less than one month old, had agreed to end his medical treatment at Anhui Provincial Children’s Hospital in eastern China, hospital sources told Xinhua state news agency.
A death certificate was issued before the baby was sent to an undertakers in Hefei, the provincial capital — only for staff there to be alerted by crying on Wednesday.
It was unclear how long he had been at the funeral parlour, or when his cremation had been due.
The baby was immediately sent back to the hospital, several news outlets including the Beijing News reported on Thursday.
“Because the baby still had life signs, we continued to give him transfusion to maintain his life for humanitarian reasons,” a hospital staff member told Xinhua.
The baby was born with a “congenital respiratory system malformation”, the agency added.
He was receiving treatment at the hospital late Wednesday, reports said.
A doctor had been suspended, a nursing worker laid off and an investigation launched into the incident, Xinhua cited the hospital as saying.
Users of China’s weibo microblogging services were outraged, blaming both the boy’s parents and the doctors involved.
“Please sentence the parents to five years in jail for abandonment,” said one poster on Thursday.
Another wrote: “Doctors with white coats are really irresponsible, simply treating patients’ lives with utter disregard.”