When a man’s body bag was unzipped the day after it had arrived at a morgue, staff were greeted by an unsettling strange sight: There was fresh blood on the man’s hospital gown from a skin tear on his arm, two of his limbs had moved from their original position… and his eyes were open.
A state coroner’s office in Perth, Australia, is now investigating alarming claims from a doctor that the 55-year-old man may have been taken to the hospital morgue while he was still alive.
This horror story concerns the final hours of Kevin Reid, a patient who was in palliative care at the Rockingham Hospital. It came to light after the concerned physician also claimed that hospital officials asked him to backdate Reid’s death certificate in an apparent bid to cover up the incident.
“I believe the frank blood from a new skin tear, arm position and eye signs were inconsistent with a person who was post-mortem on arrival at the morgue,” reads part of the anonymous doctor’s report to the coroner, which was first reported by Business News.
It’s alleged that Reid was placed in the body bag on the night of Sept. 5 without a death certificate having been issued. Other staff at the hospital reportedly confirmed that his eyes had been closed and he’d been dressed in a clean gown before being taken to the hospital’s morgue, where the doctor performed his examination and recorded the death as Sept. 6.
This discrepancy was spotted by a funeral director, who questioned the hospital as to why the death certificate said Reid died on Sept. 6 when the night before his family members were present at the hospital and were told their loved one had died.
It was at that point that the doctor was allegedly asked to backdate the death certificate—a request which the physician refused. The doctor has since quit his role at the hospital, The Guardianreports. “I believe there is governance, compliance and integrity issues,” the doctor’s report for the coroner added.
Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam described the case as horrific. “It is deeply disturbing that a direction may have been given to a doctor to backdate the death certificate,” she said, adding: “It reeks of a cover-up.”
While rare, incidents of people being incorrectly declared dead are not completely unheard of, including in the U.S. In 2020, a 20-year-old Michigan woman was declared dead by paramedics and taken to a morgue in a body bag. Hours later, a funeral walker preparing to embalm her body found her breathing with her eyes open.