Woman Wrongly Declared Dead, Found Alive in Coffin

(TargetDailyNews.com) – It’s the stuff of nightmares and horror tales dating back at least to Victorian times—a Nebraska woman mistaken for dead was found alive at a funeral home last week.

Seventy-four-year-old Constance Glantz escaped being buried alive, however, when alert staff at Butherus, Maser, and Love Funeral Home noticed her breathing and started performing CPR. As is sadly the case often in such situations, though, Glantz died shortly after being taken to an area hospital.

Staff at the nursing home where Glantz was living believed she was dead, and called the mortuary, and it was those who prepared the dead for burial who noticed that she was still alive and tried their best to keep her that way. Funeral home workers say Glantz had been in their custody for two hours when they noticed that she was still alive.

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s office is now investigating the incident, but the nursing home that made the mistake has not been named. Chief Deputy Ben Houchin described the incident as a “very unusual case.” In 31 years of policing, Houchin said, “Nothing like this has ever gotten to this point before.”

While cases of mistaking a living person for a dead one are rare, they are not unheard of. Owing to age, illness, or medication, some people’s vital signs can drop so low as to be nearly undetectable. Given that Glantz was in hospice care, her death was anticipated, which may explain some of the confusion.

Contrary to popular misconception, coroners or medical examiners are not dispatched to “certify” every death. Anticipated deaths are not usually investigated, especially if a patient is under a doctor’s care, in a nursing home, or in hospice care. Coroners and medical examiners step in when a death is unusual in some way, such as the sudden death of a young healthy person, or in situations where misadventure or foul play may be to blame.

This is why no coroner was dispatched to Glantz’s nursing home.

In this case, the coroner will conduct an autopsy on Glantz’s body, but the results will not be available for several months.

Other recent cases of mistaken deaths include an Ecuadorian woman who was pronounced dead after a stroke, only to be found alive hours after her funeral when workers opened the coffin to change her clothes.

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