A MOTHER was left reeling after Scarborough Hospital staff casually told her over the telephone that her husband was dead – and then refused to release his body for three days.
Julie Burton, 51, of Stamford Walk, went into shock and required medication after a nurse called her to tell her that her husband of 23-years, David, had died and that his body would not be released until two doctors had signed the necessary paperwork.
After two days of Mr Burton lying in the hospital’s mortuary, a second doctor had still not signed the forms, so his body was released on the third day without the ‘required’ paperwork anyway.
Mrs Burton explains: “The whole thing has been awful and I would hate for anybody else to have to go through what we’ve been through.
“David had the flu and a chest infection and had been at Bridlington hospital for a few days, they were absolutely brilliant there, but his doctor said he might get dehydrated so should be transferred to Scarborough.
“At about 7.50am on the morning of his death, I rung Scarborough and a nurse told me that David’s condition was improving and that he was talking about me and wanted to call me.
“I went into town to get things for him because I was visiting him later that morning, but when I got home, the hospital phoned.
“The nurse said, ‘so, you got my message then?’ and I thought she meant that David had asked for something else from the shops, so I said ‘no, what does he want now? I’ll go out and get it’.
“But the nurse just replied saying, ‘no, the message was that your husband is deceased’.”
Mr Burton then went into shock as she struggled to come to terms with the unexpected and devastating news and she was later prescribed tablets to help calm her down.
“I could hear what the nurse was saying, but it didn’t go in,” she said.
“I thought she’d said ‘diseased’, not ‘deceased’ and I was so confused about what was going on because the last I’d been told was that David was still ill, but improving.
“After that I just froze and went into shock.”
Mrs Burton’s daughter, Gemma, 26, is furious at the manner in which her mother was told of David’s death.
She said: “I know that for the staff at Scarborough Hospital, someone dying is something that happens every day.
“But it’s not every day you get told that your husband is dead and the nurse should have done things differently.
“To come out and just say it how she did is just disgusting.”
Further upset was later caused to the family when they tried to get David’s body brought back to Bridlington.
Mrs Burton said: “First they told us they wanted to do a postmortem, but I wasn’t happy about that and I told them so.
“Then they said they were waiting for a second doctor to sign the paperwork.
“He died on Tuesday and by the time it got to Thursday, my daughters Gemma and Nicky had to go up to the hospital themselves to demand that they released his body.
“I would’ve gone up there and brought him home in a taxi myself if I’d had to, but they ended up letting the body go without the signature anyway, so I don’t know why they didn’t just let us take him home in first place.”
A spokeswoman from the Scarborough and North East Yokshire Healtcare Trust responsible for Scarborough Hospital said: “We would like to offer our sympathies to Mrs Burton and her family for their sad loss.
“Our Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) received her letter on January 18 and we are looking at her concerns through the formal complaints process.”