Dead patients live to tell the tale

Patients in five English hospitals have been incorrectly diagnosed as being dead over the past five years, the BBC has discovered.

The information was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Donal MacIntyre programme.

In each case the mistake was later realised, the programme reports.

A policeman told the show how he gave a woman heart massage after a doctor said she was dead; an undertaker nearly took her to a mortuary, he said: "She would have been placed in a coffin and taken to the mortuary and placed in a fridge. She would almost definitely have died as a result."

In a further case uncovered by the investigations, a decision was made to withdraw active treatment on a patient.

The patient was reviewed by a doctor who confirmed verbally that the patient had died.
A short time later it was noticed that the patient was still breathing and when the patient was reassessed it was discovered that cardiac activity had returned.

Patients wrongly certified dead (BBC News, 25 May 2008)