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Woman, Alive, Found in Body Bag at Funeral Home After Being Wrongfully Declared Dead

The woman died two days later. 

A continuing care home in a Des Moines, Iowa suburb is being slapped with a $10,000 fine. The charge? They declared one of their residents dead and transferred her to a funeral home in a body bag. The only problem was, the woman wasn't actually dead. A report from the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals is shocking the country, as it details what might be most people's worst nightmare. Here's what we know.

A Woman Was in Hospice

Daughter supporting her terminally ill mother lying on hospital bed, hospice.

According to the Des Moines Register, a staff member at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center in Urbandale, a Des Moines suburb, reported that the woman, 66, had died about 6 a.m. on January 3rd. Per the report, the patient had early-onset dementia, anxiety, and depression, and had been in hospice care since Dec. 28.

She Was Declared Legally Dead by a Nurse Practitioner

Head of a ward noting death certificate

The report says that the staff member couldn't feel the woman's pulse, so she alerted a nurse practitioner, who can legally declare a patient dead. That individual made the death declaration. The report also specified that the woman had suffered signs of death prior to passing, including minor seizures and mottled skin.

Funeral Home Workers Found Her Breathing

Mortuary workers put the body inside a coffin at funeral home.

Just 90 minutes after being declared dead the woman was transferred to Ankeny Funeral Home & Crematory in the nearby suburb of Ankeny, in a zipped body bag. However, when the funeral parlor workers unzipped the bag, they noticed the woman's chest was moving so they called 911. 

She Died Two Days Later


The Ankeny Fire Department responded to the call, and the woman was taken to Mercy West Lakes Hospital, where she was found to be breathing but unresponsive. She was returned to hospice care and died on January 5. 

The Facility Was Fined

Judge gavel deciding on marriage divorce.

Per the department of inspections and appeals report, the Urbandale care center had "failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided," and was fined $10,000.

"We care deeply about our residents and we remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care. All of our employees are given regular training in how best to support end-of-life care and the death transition for our residents," Lisa Eastman, executive director of the Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center, said in a statement. 

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