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Waking Up In A Body Bag

It may sound like a horror movie but a woman in Michigan who was declared dead by doctors was found to be alive in the funeral home shortly before she was supposed to be embalmed. Like anyone else, a doctor can make a mistake. However, when a doctor wrongly declares an alive person to be dead, that type of mistake should not go unpunished. 

Found Alive at a Funeral Home

In Southfield, Michigan, a family’s 20-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy was having breathing problems. Paramedics arrived and evaluated the patient. After a consultation, a doctor declared the young girl dead. She was placed in a body bag and sent away to a funeral home. 

Hours later, a funeral home worker was set to embalm the patient. Embalming is a process to preserve the body by injection of chemical solutions that delay decomposition. Embalming can be a very invasive process that may involve removal of internal fluids and glasses, injecting chemicals into the blood vessels, and sewing the mouth closed.

Before beginning the embalming process, the funeral worker realized this patient was still alive. After the patient had been confined to a low-oxygen environment for hours, she was rushed to the hospital. 

A family in Michigan has filed a lawsuit against paramedics after the horrific event. The lawsuit alleges the victim suffered severe hypoxic brain damage after being left unattended for hours in a body bag. She later died as a result of her injuries

The paramedics involved in the event were later suspended. According to the lawsuit, telemetry of the patient’s heart showed she was alive when the paramedics declared she was dead. 

Lazarus Syndrome 

After a cardiac arrest, the patient may not be dead. A patient may need their heart jump-started by a defibrillator or the heart may begin to beat again on its own. The “Lazarus Phenomenon” or “Lazarus Syndrome” is a delayed return of spontaneous circulation after CPR. The term is named after the biblical story of Lazarus of Bethany who was brought back to life after death. 

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated event. While it is not known to be a common event, doctors and medical personnel have declared patients to be dead only to have the patient awaken. The causes of a wrongful declaration of death may include: 

  • Wrong-patient mix-up
  • Failure to monitor vitals
  • Medical negligence
  • Improper resuscitation

Compensation After a Wrongful Death

In this tragic story, the young woman involved later died because of her injuries. When the injury victim suffers a fatal accident, the victim is no longer alive to seek accountability. Instead, it is left up to the family to find out who was responsible and make sure they take responsibility for their actions. 

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family members may be able to seek compensation after a family member has died because of medical malpractice or negligence. Damages can include loss of support, medical expenses, and funeral costs. 

The trial attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are committed to helping injury victims and their families get compensation after an accident. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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