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Detroit funeral home discovers woman declared dead is actually alive

James H. Cole Home for Funerals main chapel in Detroit, Michigan. (James H. Cole Home for Funerals/TNS)

As it turned out, reports of her untimely death were greatly exaggerated.

Timesha Beauchamp, a 20-year-old Southfield woman who had been pronounced dead early Sunday morning after a heart attack, was taken to a Detroit funeral home, where staff found she was in fact not dead but still very much alive.

And now, well-known plaintiff’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger is representing her. He has won more than 165 verdicts and settlements of $1 million or more. He also successfully defended assisted-suicide Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Southfield officials tried to explain the error later that same day in an announcement that was sent on behalf of the city’s fire chief under an unusual — and understated — subject line: “Mistaken pronouncement of death.”

But even that later required a correction.

The story went viral on social media, with readers imagining the horror of being embalmed alive.

A Seattle attorney, Emily Albrecht, who contacted the Free Press and specializes in mortuary litigation, said the story was so rare she wasn’t sure if it was real. But, after looking into it said that it sounds like the funeral home saved the woman’s life.

“When I first saw this I thought, ‘No way!” she told the Free Press.

According to the Southfield Fire Department, which would not release victim’s name, paramedics responded to a 911 call: A woman was not breathing. They performed CPR and tried to revive her. But, after 30 minutes, they concluded she likely was no longer alive.

Following procedures, the paramedics also contacted the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. But, later, the fire department clarified in a statement, that a local emergency department physician pronounced Beauchamp dead.

The body was released to her family to make funeral arrangements.

James H. Cole Funeral Home in Detroit confirmed it picked up the body hours later. But at the funeral home, employees saw her chest was rising and falling and the woman was still breathing. They called EMS, and the woman was taken to the hospital for treatment.

The funeral home added that its “thoughts and prayers are with this young woman and her family.”


© 2020 Detroit Free Press

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