Officials: Iowa Woman Presumed Dead Discovered Gasping for Air in Body Bag

Senior woman wearing mask infected by coronavirus on hospital bed receiving medicine by drip. Close-up fingers of the senior patient ´s hand while she is sleeping. Horizontal photo
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A hospice center in Urbandale, Iowa, is accused of mistakenly presuming a 66-year-old patient was dead when she was not, NBC News reported Thursday.

Once a nurse at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center determined the woman had passed away, the resident was taken to a funeral home, officials with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals announced this week.

In its report, the department said it fined the center $10,000 regarding the incident.

“The resident was admitted into hospice care on 12/28/22 due to senile degeneration of the brain. Comfort measures including lorazepam and morphine were initiated at that time,” the department’s report noted.

Hospice workers include professionals who address the physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs of the individual in their care, per the Hospice Foundation of America.

The morning of January 3, a nurse checked on the woman but apparently found no signs of life. The department said the time of death was 6:00 a.m., then staff members called the woman’s daughter.

“Orders obtained from physician to release body to funeral home,” the report continued.

The nurse had checked on the patient all night, but at 6:00 a.m. the patient’s mouth was open, her eyes fixed, there were no sounds of breathing, and the nurse was unable to locate a pulse.

“She felt Resident #1 had passed away. She notified Resident #1’s family member and the on call hospice nurse. Hospice agreed to call the funeral home and did so,” the department said.

When the funeral director, who also reported no signs of life, arrived almost two hours later, the director tucked the woman’s body inside a cloth bag, zipped it closed, then left with the woman.

“At approximately 8:26 a.m. funeral home staff unzipped the bag and observed Resident #1’s chest moving and she gasped for air. The funeral home then called 911 and hospice,” the department’s report said.

Emergency crews eventually arrived and recorded her pulse. However, she showed no eye movement, did not make noises, or move.

A few days later, the woman died at the hospice facility with her family members nearby.

The department said, “Based on interview and record review the licensee failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided based on the needs of 1 of 1 residents reviewed at end of life.”


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