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Mortician discovers live patient pronounced dead by mistake

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Mortician discovers live patient pronounced dead by mistake
Photo: DPA
13:21 CEST+02:00
A doctor in Lower Saxony is under investigation after falsely declaring an elderly woman dead, a mistake discovered by an undertaker when he tried to place her in a coffin, the state public prosecutor's office said this week.

Some four weeks ago, concerned residents in Nordhorn called emergency services when their 89-year-old neighbour did not raise her window shades as usual in the morning. The 33-year-old emergency doctor arrived to find that she had fallen in the bathtub.

Because she was cold and stiff, the Nordhorn clinic doctor pronounced her dead. About an hour later, a mortician found that she was still breathing when he tried to move her to a coffin, the spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The woman died four days later, and authorities believe she may have been saved had the doctor realised she was living.

“We express our deepest regrets,” clinic director Hermann Thole said, adding that the mistake occurred after a “chain of unfortunate events.”

Thole said the hospital had been open with the woman's family about the error, adding that the woman had suffered a brain injury so severe that immediate help would not have saved her. The family has not filed an official complaint.

The doctor in question continues to treat patients during the investigation.

“He has my full trust,” Thole said.

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