Coronavirus: Family given wrong body of loved one by hospital in the Midlands

‘Full internal review’ being carried out Mullingar Regional Hospital

A hospital in the Midlands released the incorrect remains to the family of a loved one who had died, the HSE has confirmed.

The incident, which occurred at the Mullingar regional hospital on Friday April 24th, has resulted in a “full internal review” into how the situation arose.

Due to coronavirus, individuals who die from the virus are placed in sealed body bags by morticians before being transferred to an undertaker and families do not see the body of their deceased loved ones.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reported the error was identified by a mortician who noticed a bag bearing the deceased person’s name, even though their remains had been signed out.

The paper reports that the family were only informed of the error “minutes” before the funeral service was due to take place, and that the hearse had to be redirected to Mullingar hospital so the bodies could be swapped.

A spokeswoman for the HSE confirmed that the error occurred and added that “following detection, the mistake was rectified”.

“We would like to offer our condolences to the families and sincerely apologise for the distress this has caused during this difficult time,” the spokeswoman added.

"The Ireland East Hospital Group along with Regional Hospital Mullingar have convened their Serious Incident Management Team and are conducting a full internal review. Processes and protocols have been reviewed within the hospital and its mortuary in order to mitigate this extremely rare event from happening again."

Coronavirus has changed the way in which funerals are carried out, with only close family members being allowed to attend services which take place under strictly controlled guidelines.

According to guidelines for funeral directors, the human body “does not generally create a serious health hazard” for Covid-19 infection after death.

“There is no evidence so far of transmission of SARS-CoV2 through the handling of bodies of deceased persons,” the guidelines, compiled by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre say.

Embalming is “not recommended” for those with confirmed Covid-19 infection at this time, although this recommendation is different in other countries.

The option of cremation is at the discretion of the family but is not required for the purposes of infection prevention and control.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times