Paramedics declared a Michigan woman dead before her remains were taken to a funeral home — where staff found she was very much alive, authorities said Monday.
The bizarre mishap unfolded on Sunday morning in Southfield, when local paramedics rushed to the aid of an unresponsive 20-year-old woman, officials said.
The paramedics believed the woman was dead and called a nearby hospital to share vital signs with an emergency room physician, who used that data to formally declare death, said Oakland County Medical Examiner Spokesman Bill Mullan.
First responders then called the medical examiner to share the same information, leading a forensic pathologist to rule there was nothing suspicious or possibly criminal, thus allowing her body to be sent to a funeral home.
“In this instance, there was a medical history that said that (medical examiner involvement) wasn’t necessary,” Mullan said.
Citing medical privacy concerns, Mullan declined to reveal the woman’s medical history that helped lead paramedics to believe she was dead.
The woman’s body was taken to the James H. Cole Home for Funerals in Detroit, where workers saw the allegedly dead woman moving.
“You could tell she was breathing,” Cole spokeswoman Jocelyn Allen said. “You can see a chest going up and down. They could see that.”
The woman was taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, where she was being treated Monday.
“They said, ‘Ma’am, your daughter is on her way to Sinai Grace Hospital. She is breathing. She is alive,’ ” the woman’s mother said.
“This devastated my life. Then she just told me, ‘No, ma’am, your daughter is breathing.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? What do you mean she’s breathing?’ She said, ‘Ma’am, she’s in the hospital.’ “
Southfield fire officials were still piecing together what happened on Sunday.
“How did this happen? Everyone wants to know this,” Southfield Fire Battalion Chief Chris Smith said.
The city of Southfield said it’s “conducting a thorough internal investigation” and will report findings to the state authorities wither oversight of emergency medical services.
Mullan refused to second-guess the paramedics, ER doctor or his agency’s forensic pathologist in making the incorrect finding of death.
“I don’t have enough facts to make that call,” Mullan said, while adding: “I would consider this a rare circumstance.”