Urbandale, IA

The Dead Came Back to Life: Woman presumed dead was found gasping for air in a body bag at Iowa funeral home


Photo by Mario Wallner: https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-a-coffin-12403305/

In Iowa, a hospice facility fined $10,000 after mistakenly assuming a woman was dead before she was found gasping for air inside a body bag at a funeral home.

According to a report released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the 66-year-old woman died on Jan. 3 at Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center in Urbandale.

According to the report, the woman, who has not been publicly identified, was admitted to hospice care on Dec. 28 due to "senile degeneration of the brain."

According to the report, a nurse checked on the patient at 6 a.m. on Jan. 3.

The woman's mouth was open, her eyes were fixed, and she did not breathe, according to the report, which also mentions that a nurse was unable to find the woman's pulse with a stethoscope.

According to the report, the nurse touched the woman's abdomen and saw no movement. She presumed the woman had died and notified a family member and the hospice nurse on call.

"Hospice agreed to contact the funeral home and did so," it says.

In the report, a funeral director put the woman's body inside a cloth bag and zipped it shut about an hour and forty minutes later. Ten minutes later, the director left with the woman. Staff at the funeral home discovered that the woman was still alive shortly before 8:30 a.m., according to the report.

As the funeral home staff unzipped the bag, they observed Resident #1's chest moving and she was gasping for breath. The funeral home called 911 and hospice.

The report states that EMS personnel recorded the woman's pulse when they arrived and noted she had no eye movement, verbal or vocal response, or motor activity.

She was taken to an emergency room, returned to the hospice facility, and died two days later with her family by her side.

According to a spokesperson for the state Department of Inspections and Appeals, the state fined the facility $10,000, the maximum allowed by law.

The facility failed to provide appropriate care and services and failed to ensure she received "dignified treatment and care at the end of her life, according to a state citation dated Wednesday.

The hospice facility's executive director said representatives have contacted the resident's family.

We remain fully committed to supporting our residents' end-of-life care, Executive Director Lisa Eastman said in a statement. "All employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and death."

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