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Nebraska woman declared dead found alive at funeral home

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Vicki Wong
  • Role, BBC News

A Nebraska woman initially reported dead at a nursing home was later found alive at a funeral home, authorities confirmed.

An emergency call was made on Monday by staff at a funeral home in Waverly, near Lincoln, who noticed the 74-year-old woman was still breathing and performed CPR on her.

Constance Glantz had been pronounced dead by staff at a nearby nursing home about two hours earlier.

She was taken to a local hospital. Police are investigating the incident, but say they have found no evidence of criminal intent on the part of the nursing home.

“This is a very unusual case,” Ben Houchin, chief deputy of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, said during a livestreamed press briefing.

“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and nothing like this has ever gotten to this point before.”

No coroner was sent to the nursing home because Ms. Glantz had been placed in a hospice facility and the circumstances did not fall within a coroner’s jurisdiction, Mr. Houchin told reporters. Ms. Glantz’s death was anticipated, he said.

Additionally, “a doctor had seen her within the last seven days, and the doctor was prepared to sign the death certificate, and…there was nothing suspicious at the time of death.”

The woman’s current condition is unknown. Mr. Houchin confirmed that his family had been informed of the situation.

Mr Houchin did not name the homes at the center of the accident, but the BBC has requested comment from a care home and funeral home named by local media.

Ms. Glantz is not the only person to be declared dead only to later turn out to still be alive.

In June last year, Bella Montoya, 76, in Ecuador, was pronounced dead following a suspected stroke, placed in a coffin and taken to a funeral home for a vigil before her burial. Five hours later, she was found alive after the coffin was opened to change. However, she died a few days later.

Dr Stephen Hughes, senior lecturer in medicine at Anglia Ruskin University Medical School in Chelmsford, said such cases are rare but “death is a process”.

“Sometimes someone can look like they’re dead, but they’re not quite dead,” Dr Hughes told the BBC after the incident in Ecuador. “Careful consideration is necessary.”

Dr. Hughes added that doctors often look for heart sounds or breathing effort for at least a minute before pronouncing a person dead, and that certain medications can also slow down bodily processes, giving someone the false impression of ‘to have died.

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