Title: Iowa Hospice Facility Fined After Mistakenly Presuming Woman Dead
It’s a heartbreaking story that no one should ever have to experience. A nurse at a hospice facility in Iowa mistakenly presumed a 66-year-old woman dead and hours later, the woman was discovered gasping for air inside a body bag at a funeral home. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals has now issued a report and fined the facility $10,000 for the incident.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was admitted to the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale on December 28th due to senile degeneration of the brain. At 6 a.m. on January 3rd, a nurse checked on the patient and found no signs of life. The nurse put her hand on the woman’s abdomen and noted no movement and the nurse was unable to locate the woman’s pulse using her stethoscope.
The nurse then called a family member and the on-call hospice nurse to inform them that the woman had died and the hospice facility agreed to call the funeral home. Nearly an hour and 40 minutes later, a funeral director placed the woman’s body on a gurney inside a cloth bag and zipped it shut before leaving with the body.
It wasn’t until shortly before 8:30 a.m. that staff members at the funeral home discovered that the woman was still alive. Funeral home staff unzipped the bag and observed the woman’s chest was moving and she was gasping for air. The funeral home then called 911 and hospice. When EMS personnel arrived, they recorded the woman’s pulse and noted she had no eye movement or verbal, vocal, or motor response.
The woman was taken to the emergency room and returned to the hospice facility where she died two days later with her family at her side. In response to the incident, the state fined the facility $10,000, the maximum allowed under Iowa law. The hospice facility’s executive director said representatives have been in touch with the resident’s family and that all employees undergo regular training to best support end-of-life care.
This incident is a tragic reminder of the importance of providing dignified treatment and care at end of life. We can only hope that the family of the woman involved can find peace in knowing that the facility has taken responsibility for the incident.