Funeral home shocked after woman declared dead gasps for air in body bag

Coffin and funeral
Coffin and funeral (MagMos/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Funeral home shocked after woman declared dead gasps for air in body bag

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An end-of-life care facility in Iowa is being fined $10,000 after workers at a local funeral home discovered a woman who had been declared dead gasping for air inside a body bag.

The woman, identified as a 66-year-old, was initially declared dead Jan. 3 at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Urbandale, the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals said in a Wednesday report.


She had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and early onset dementia and had been in end-of-life care at the facility since December, according to the Associated Press.

After she was declared dead, the elderly woman was sent to the Ankeny Funeral Home & Crematory, where she stunned workers when she began gasping for air inside the body bag, according to the report.

Employees called emergency officials, and the woman was taken to a Mercy West Lakes Hospital.

She was deemed to be breathing but unresponsive, and the hospital returned to hospice care, where she died Jan. 5 beside her family.

At least two staff members at the Glen Oaks had reported that the 66-year-old woman did not have a pulse on Jan. 3 before she was sent to the funeral home, the report noted.

She was declared dead around 6:30 a.m., or 90 minutes after the first staffer had made a report.

A funeral home worker and another Glen Oaks staffer were also reported as finding no signs of life as the woman was prepared to be taken to the funeral home.

Still, the the care center “failed to provide adequate direction to ensure appropriate cares and services were provided” prior to declaring the woman dead, according to the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals.

Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Center Executive Director Lisa Eastman said the facility is committed to giving its patients the best care.


“All of our employees are given regular training in how best to support end-of-life care and the death transition for our residents,” according to Eastman.

No criminal charges have been filed related to the incident.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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