Nebraska funeral home discovers hospice patient was still alive hours after being declared dead

Authorities say a Nebraska funeral home discovered that a 74-year-old hospice patient who was declared dead by her nursing home was actually still alive

Josh Funk
Tuesday 04 June 2024 16:24 BST
Funeral Home Alive
Funeral Home Alive (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR)

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Louise Thomas

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A Nebraska funeral home discovered that a 74-year-old hospice patient who was declared dead by her nursing home two hours earlier was actually still alive, so workers started CPR and she was rushed to a hospital, where she died hours later.

The woman was in hospice care at the The Mulberry nursing home in the Lincoln suburb of Waverly before she was declared dead Monday morning, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.

Workers at Butherus Maser & Love Funeral Home noticed she was still breathing just before noon immediately after laying her on the embalming table, Chief Deputy Ben Houchin said.

“I can’t imagine their shock,” he said Tuesday.

The woman was taken to a Lincoln hospital, where she died Monday afternoon.

The sheriff's office is looking into what happened, but Houchin said investigators hadn't found any initial evidence that laws were broken. He said it’s common for nursing homes not to call the sheriff’s department when someone who has been in hospice care dies.

The woman had seen her doctor a few days beforehand, and Houchin said he was willing to sign off on her death certificate because her death was expected. But that hadn't happened before she was found alive.

“I’m sure the nursing home and everybody’s going to be taking a look into what has happened,” said Houchin. “And I’m sure they’ll look and see if new protocols need to be made or if they were all followed.”

A woman who answered the phone at the nursing home declined to comment Tuesday.

This was at least the third time in the past two years that a U.S. funeral home discovered someone to be alive who had been deemed dead. A woman was declared dead prematurely in New York last year just days after an Iowa nursing home was fined $10,000 for doing the same thing.

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