Hospital says sorry after woman declared dead

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The Independent Online

A hospital in eastern Australia has apologized to the family of an elderly woman for mistakenly pronouncing her dead, officials said today.

A doctor declared the 92-year-old woman dead on 3 May, hours after she was moved from a nursing home and admitted to a hospital in Queensland state. Her next of kin were told.

Ten minutes later, however, nurses at Innisfail Hospital discovered that the woman was still breathing, Queensland's heath department said in a statement. She died three days later of an undisclosed illness.

"I can only imagine the distress this situation must have caused the family of the deceased — to be told their loved one had died and then to have that contradicted just a short while later," said the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Peter McKenna.

"All staff involved with caring for this lady are distressed and have asked that the family accept their sincere apologies for what happened," he said.

The woman was "very unwell" when she was admitted to the hospital and was receiving palliative care to keep her comfortable until she died, McKenna said.

McKenna said a number of signs of life were absent when the doctor examined the woman and pronounced her dead, but it "appears the life signs returned several minutes after the doctor left the room."

The hospital is investigating, the department said.

Health department spokesman Jim Guthrie said family members had told the hospital they were upset by the incident but satisfied with the hospital's treatment of the woman. They did not want to comment further.

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