Ask HRC: Identifying Bodies in the Morgue

June 11, 2018 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​A risk manager recently asked for guidance on the best practices for ensuring proper identification of a deceased body as it leaves the hospital and goes to the morgue.

In our response, ECRI Institute notes that errors in identification can be embarrassing for hospitals and can be costly as well. For example, in one case, the parents of an infant who died days after his birth filed a lawsuit seeking $3 million in damages against the hospital, a funeral home, and a mortuary service because an identification error caused hospital and funeral home employees to give the remains of another infant to the plaintiffs, according to a May 9, 2016, article published in the Oregonian. After their son's death, the plaintiff parents received the ashes of a baby girl who had been misidentified as their son. An employee from the hospital and an employee from the funeral home signed an information sheet confirming the transfer of the boy's body, but the identification number on the form actually belonged to an infant girl who had died three months previously. Unaware of the error, the plaintiffs held funeral services with the ashes, traveled to see family with the ashes, and placed them on a religious shrine. Five months later, the director of the funeral home...

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