Woman Believed Dead Found ‘Gasping for Air’ in Body Bag, Hospice Fined $10,000

A nurse at an Iowa hospice facility mistakenly pronounced a 66-year-old woman dead, only for her to be found "gasping for air" in a body bag hours later.

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An Iowa hospice facility has been fined $10,000 after a nurse mistakenly pronounced a 66-year-old woman dead only for her to be found “gasping for air inside a body bag” hours later, NBC News reports.

Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale reported the death of a patient at the facility at around 6 a.m. on Jan. 6, after a nurse found no apparent signs of life. The woman has not been publicly identified, but she was admitted to the face home on Dec. 28 due to “senile degeneration of the brain.” Per the report from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals issued on Wednesday, the patient’s “mouth was open, her eyes were fixed, and there were no breath sounds.”

The nurse reportedly closely inspected the patient with a stethoscope, and was unable to locate a pulse. She also put her hand on the patient's abdomen, and "noted no movement." The hospice called a nearby funeral home, and she was zipped “inside a cloth bag” approximately one hour and 40 minutes later. Staff at the funeral home realized at 8:30 a.m. that the woman was still alive. 

“Funeral home staff unzipped the bag and observed Resident #1's chest was moving and she was gasping for air. The funeral home then called 911 and hospice,” reads the report. She was then taken to an emergency room because she had a pulse, but there was no eye movement or response. She was later returned to the hospice, and died with her family two days later.

The state of Iowa has fined Glen Oaks $10,000, saying the facility "failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided."

In a statement on the incident, the hospice’s executive director Lisa Eastman confirmed they have been speaking with the patient’s family. “We care deeply for our residents and remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care,” Eastman said. “All employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and the death of our residents.”

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