Nursing home declares living resident dead

It’s the stuff of nightmares, both for the patient and their survivors. A long-term care facility in another state faces allegations of malpractice after declaring a live resident dead and sending her – in a body bag – to the funeral home.

According to medical records, the woman became unresponsive and showed signs of impending death. Pulse sounds were also undetectable, so the patient was then transported to a local funeral home.

A tragic mistake

Signs of life became apparent when a mortuary employee opened the body bag after the 66-year-old early-onset dementia patient had been inside it for approximately 90 minutes. The patient was gasping for breath.

Funeral home workers called 911, reporting cardiac arrest, The woman remained unresponsive but breathing at a local medical facility. Once stabilized, she returned to the hospice and died days later.

How could that happen?

In addition to doctors, that state allows both nurses and physician assistants to issue death declarations. Here in New Jersey, the law grants advanced practice nurses authority to not only declare death but determine the cause and sign the death certificate.

Nursing home residents especially vulnerable to abuse

Those whose conditions render them non-verbal, such as those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia, depend on their loved ones and friends to protect them at their most vulnerable moment — including at their deaths. Every medical professional entrusted with the authority to declare death has the responsibility to fully assure that the patient has irrevocably passed away.

Did your loved one suffer due to medical negligence?

If you have a loved one who experienced malpractice in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you can help them seek civil justice for these tortious actions.

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