It sounds like a scenario that only exists in old stories: someone being declared dead only to be revived just before body preparation procedures that truly would be lethal. It is hard to imagine that someone could be incorrectly pronounced dead in this day and age. But while rare, it does happen.
In fact, it occurred here in the United States earlier this summer. According to new reports, the mother of a 20-year-old Michigan woman with cerebral palsy called 911 in August because her daughter was unconscious and seemingly wasn’t breathing. Four emergency medical professionals came to the home and attempted resuscitation. At some point, one of the crew called a doctor, gave information from the scene, and the doctor declared the young woman dead based on that information.
After that diagnosis, the young woman’s body was not taken to a hospital. Instead, it was reportedly transferred to a funeral home. The woman would have been embalmed, but thankfully, the funeral home staff heard her gasp for air. The funeral home called 911 and the patient was finally taken to the hospital, where she is now in critical condition.
The medical responders responsible for the error claim that they followed proper procedure and did all they could to first try to resuscitate the patient and then to correctly determine if she was dead or alive. But the early findings of an investigation refute those assertions.
According to investigators, the paramedic trying to resuscitate the patient stopped efforts about six minutes before being given permission by a doctor (via phone) to do so. He also allegedly failed to check some key vital signs with a stethoscope and inaccurately relayed medical information to the physician on the phone.
News accounts also indicate that the family members noticed signs of life, but their observations were dismissed by the paramedic.
The family of the young woman has hired an attorney and will likely be pursuing litigation for gross negligence. The attorney explained that “she wasn’t dying or near death. Had they got her to the hospital none of this would have happened.”
While this is far from a “standard” case of medical malpractice, the necessary elements are present – including a patient suffering severe harm or perhaps death due to medical mistakes that were very preventable.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical professional who failed to give you the standard of care you were entitled to, please discuss your options with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.