It is the stuff that nightmares or Edgar Allan Poe stories are made of: a person wakes up inside of a body bag. How could someone, who is not dead, end up in a body bag in this day and age?

That is a grave question that the national public is asking right now, likely with the fear that such a horror could happen to them some day. Death alone can be scary. Being put into a body bag or getting buried alive can stir up even more horror within a person than the idea of true death.

The question is, did some sort of medical malpractice result in a recent man’s misdiagnosis as being dead?

Last week, an elderly man in Mississippi woke up, surprised to be inside of a body bag. A coroner had confirmed him as supposedly “dead” at the patient’s funeral home. That diagnosis, as the patient would find out in a distressing way, was wrong. Apparently, the victim of the misdiagnosis appeared to be dead because of a pacemaker issue. 

That patient was — is still alive. He is 78 years old and has lived to tell a certainly unusual story of the time when people thought that he had died. Though it is a jaw-dropping story to tell, it is also a story of a patient’s safety being jeopardized.

Patients should be able to trust that the medical professionals around them know what they are doing and will accurately diagnose their conditions, whether it is a condition of illness or death. Someone who feels that a medical professional failed to live up to industry standards and caused illness or distress by that negligence should work with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. 

Source: Time, “How to Know If Someone’s Really Dead,” Jeffrey Kluger, Feb. 28, 2014