Officials announced Wednesday that they suspended four medics after a Michigan woman was pronounced dead — only to be found breathing at a funeral home.
According to The Detroit Free Press, Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee told reporters that the four medics were placed on leave on August 24. Menifree said the suspended medics are a lieutenant-paramedic with 18 years of experience, a paramedic with seven years’ experience, an EMT with two years experience, and a second EMT with six months on the job.
The announcement comes days after the August 23 incident involving Timesha Beauchamp, 20. Beauchamp, who has cerebral palsy, reportedly suffered a seizure and was pronounced dead after paramedics tried to revive her for 30 minutes.
Hours after Beauchamp’s body was released and her family made funeral arrangements, the staff at James H. Cole funeral home discovered the woman was breathing.
Possibly explaining the mixup, Menifree previously said Beauchamp possibly experienced Lazarus syndrome — which a 2007 study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine describes as the “delayed return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) after cessation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).” Published medical literature has only identified 38 cases of Lazarus syndrome, according to researchers.
The family’s lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, alleged police or paramedics placed Beauchamp in a body bag. Fieger said Beauchamp was about to be embalmed when funeral home staff realized she was still alive.
Menifee disputed Fiegler claims, noting firefighters don’t carry body bags. The fire chief said paramedics released Beauchamp’s body to her family.
Menifee also denied that paramedics didn’t contact a doctor or the Oakland County Medical Examiner. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office said the fire department contacted them after consulting an emergency room doctor who pronounced Beauchamp deceased.
The medical examiner reportedly authorized the release of Beauchamp’s body without an autopsy based on police’s claims regarding her medical history. Police said there was no evidence Beauchamp was the victim of foul play.
However, Menifee has not yet addressed allegations that, on at least two instances, Beauchamp’s relatives alerted fire crews that she was still breathing. Further, Southfield police reportedly saw Beauchamp moving and breathing and called crews back, but crews claimed the movements were caused by the medication they gave her while attempting to save her life.
Citing the Southfield Fire Department, WWJ-TV reported that the state has also sent letters of intent to suspend the licenses of two EMT’s who responded to the scene that day.
Fieger said the 1.5-hour delay in taking Beauchamp to the funeral home instead of the hospital may jeopardize her recovery. Beauchamp reportedly remains hospitalized and is on a respirator.
Menifee said Wednesday that he has not yet contacted Beauchamp’s family.
“I take full responsibility for not reaching out to them,” he said, according to The Detroit News.
“I feel tremendously upset and mad at myself for not doing that upfront, but I know they want answers and I’m trying to get those answers for them.”
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[Featured image: Timesha Beauchamp/WXYZ]