In what can be described as a bizarre incident, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office has found itself in a fix after an attendant “mistakenly” cremated the remains of a wrong man after confusing his remains with those of another individual who had the same name. According to a Los Angeles Times report, the victim whose body was “accidentally” cremated has been identified as 26-year-old Jorge Hernandez who had died of a drug overdose on October 7.
According to the report, coroner officials confirmed that the mistake happened after a technician failed to do a mandatory check of the case number on the body before proceeding with the cremation. Officials have reportedly also issued an apology to the family members of Jorge.
Hernandez, who died earlier this month of a drug overdose was taken to the Glendale Adventist Medical Center following which his body was given to the coroner’s office for determining the cause of death. His family members had in the meantime started preparing for a funeral and a private viewing ceremony. It was in the midst of these preparations that the family received a phone call from the coroner’s office saying that they had mistakenly cremated Jorge’s body. In a statement issued by Armand Montiel, a coroner’s office spokesman, he revealed that the mix-up happened because there were two bodies in the morgue that shared the same names. The other individual, also named Jorge Hernandez, was the one who was supposed to have been cremated.
“When retrieving the remains the coroner’s attendant matched the name but did not match the coroner case number. It was an oversight by human error.”
“The department is profoundly sorry for any additional discomfort that this has caused the loved ones of Mr. Hernandez,” he added. A personal apology too was sent by the chief medical examiner to the family who remained stunned.”
According to Mary Lou Diaz, a relative, a simple sorry won’t bring him back.
“Sorry doesn’t bring him back. This was really upsetting. I know they have bodies stacking up but there needs to be accountability here. We thought, ‘No, this isn’t happening. They have to be wrong. It was devastating. There was no goodbye. There was no closure. The whole family has been affected by this double tragedy.”
Jorge’s mother, who was already in a bad shape following her son’s death, has been hit hard by the revelation that she would never see her son again. She was hoping to see her son one last time, resting peacefully inside his coffin.
“She wanted photos of his peacefully resting in his coffin. She is so distraught she had to seek medical treatment,” a close relative told local media outlets.
The family is now planning to take legal action against the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. This was confirmed by Luis Carrillo, an attorney for Hernandez’s family. He added the following.
“The coroner’s office is chronically understaffed and underfunded, so errors get made and this has a very real impact on their survivors. There was apparently no supervisor double-checking on the bodies before cremation.”
Meanwhile, there are also complaints that the incident has happened due to a major backlog at the coroner’s office which according to many, is facing staffing shortages. The coroner’s office, as of September 21, was yet to complete toxicology and other tests on more than 1,500 bodies that arrived there this year alone. In June, the number of pending tests were over 2,100.
The news of this bizarre case of mistaken identity comes just days after we reported about a case of medical negligence where a surgeon from a Massachusetts hospital “mistakenly” removed a kidney from a wrong patient.
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