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Woman at Long Island funeral home discovered breathing after being pronounced dead

Woman found breathing hours after L.I. nursing home pronounced her dead
Woman found breathing hours after L.I. nursing home pronounced her dead 02:25

PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. -- An 82-year-old woman pronounced dead by medical staff at a Long Island nursing home was found breathing hours later at a funeral home. 

It's unclear if she was declared dead in error or experienced a medical episode that got her heart beating on its own. 

The woman was pronounced dead on Feb. 4 at 11:15 a.m. by doctors at the Water's Edge Rehab and Nursing Center in Port Jefferson, according to police. Then, was taken to O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place. 

Shortly after 2 p.m., the woman was found to be alive and breathing. An ambulance took her to a hospital. 

Port Jefferson residents said it's an outrageous situation. 

"It's a horror. That's a nightmare situation," one person said. 

"Who's checking to see if they're dead or not?" another person asked. 

"It's bizarre! In this day and age it's bizarre," said another. 

"It's sad, sad for the family and everybody involved," said another. 

The nursing home declined our request for an interview and did not return phone messages. 

Suffolk Police said they turned the case over to the New York State Health Department and Attorney General's Office. Both offices confirmed they are investigating. 

"This is an awful situation that has caused unnecessary trauma for the impacted resident and her loves ones," said a spokesperson for Attorney General Letitia James. 

"The public health law in New York actually says, 'Hey, there's rights and duties that you have to have in these nursing homes,' and I'm sure that's why the AG is investigating," said legal analyst Andrew Leib. 

Last week, there was a similar case in the Midwest. A 66-year-old woman was found gasping for air in a body bag at a funeral home in Iowa. 

"After the heart stops, which is how we define death, there is a phenomenon referred to autoresuscitation," said NYU Langone's Dr. Sam Parnia. 

After death is declared, the brain in some cases produces surging hormones of adrenaline and steroids, said Parnia. 

"The body will bring itself back to life again because it has these inherent mechanisms that it fights to the very end and it tries to preserve itself," he said. 

It's unclear what happened in the Port Jefferson case. The woman's name and her current condition were not disclosed. 

The funeral home said, respecting privacy and confidentiality, they are not in a position to comment. 

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