A Western Australian doctor claims a 55-year-old man was still alive when he was placed inside a body bag.
Kevin Reid, a palliative care patient, was allegedly moved from a ward at Rockingham General Hospital, south of Perth, to the morgue before he died, Nine News reported.
The doctor, who was called in to certify his death a day later, claims he was asked to cover-up the devastating mistake.
"It's deeply alarming that this occurred," the WA President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, told Nine News.
His eyes were open
A complaint sent to the state’s coroner, first reported by Business News, claims that Mr Reid was pronounced dead by nurses on the ward on September 5.
A few hours later, his body was transferred to the morgue and placed in a body bag, despite no doctor reportedly being called to certify his death.
It wasn't until the next day when the hospital received a request for permission to take the man's organs, that the doctor was called to the morgue to sign the death certificate.
After unzipping the body bag, he discovered that Mr Reid’s eyes were open, there was fresh blood from a cut on his arm and the other arm was over his right shoulder.
"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," the doctor wrote, according to the Business News report.
According to Dr Duncan-Smith, it is unlikely that a person would bleed after they have passed away.
"Once a patient has died then the heart has stopped, so there is no more circulation and the blood is not oxygenated anymore," he said.
"So if a deceased body was to get cut, then you would not expect to see bleeding or red blood."
Funeral director raised alarm bells
According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, it was the funeral director who raised the alarm.
They questioned why the date on the death certificate, September 6, was different to the day Mr Reid’s family had been informed of his death.
It was then that the doctor was allegedly asked by hospital officials to backdate the death certificate to match the time that the nurses determined his death.
He refused and notified his head of department, accusing authorities of trying to cover up the incident. He's now quit.
The coroner's court has since confirmed that an investigation is underway to determine if the death is a reportable death.
The South Metropolitan Health Service and Crime and Corruption Commission are also looking into the incident.
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