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Hospital mix-up causes post-funeral autopsy

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Hospital mix-up causes post-funeral autopsy
10:58 CEST+02:00
A family in eastern Sweden was devastated to learn that their deceased loved-one would have to be autopsied after the funeral due to a hospital snafu.

“We're in extreme grief, the whole family. Everyone is upset, we're in a state of shock,” said Camilla Nordlander, Stjernberg's daughter, to The Local.

The man, Rune Stjernberg, 66, died at his home after becoming seriously ill. The emergency unit managed to resuscitate him once, but when he could not breathe on his own he was subsequently pronounced dead.

However, doctors at the hospital in Sundsvall, northern Sweden, forgot to send a referral to the pathologist, meaning the cause of death was never determined.

Doctors point to a miscommunication between themselves, in which each thought the other had sent the referral, when neither had.

The man's wife, Anita Nordlander, was informed her husband would be autopsied. She planned the funeral for the 20th of April.

Last week, when she met with the funeral director, she had the chance to see her husband's body.

“He looked so peaceful, as if he was just lying there sleeping,” she told the local Sundsvall Dagbladet newspaper.

However, when she asked for the official cause of death, the funeral director was stumped. He consulted his colleagues, who were unable to come up with an answer.

“We were told that no autopsy had been done and we had to leave him behind. It was so awful - I couldn't sleep at night,” she told the local paper.

“Rune was so peaceful and pleasant, and it felt horrible to know that he would be carved up,” she said.

When asked if she could change the date of the funeral, Nordlander stated that it would be impossible, as many guests had been invited from abroad and had already booked their hotel rooms.

Stjernberg will now be buried on Friday, just hours before his corpse will be taken to a pathologist in Umeå, northern Sweden, to confirm the cause of death.

“It feels so strange knowing I will say goodbye to Dad with the knowledge he'll be taken away after the ceremony,” the man's daughter told The Local.

Spokespeople of the hospital are apologetic, and state that despite their best efforts, nothing can be done.

“This is terribly unfortunate and deeply regrettable,” head of medicine Margareta Lundqvist told the paper.

“I have tried every possible means to hurry to autopsy process so it could occur before the funeral, but it just wasn't possible. So unfortunately we have to do it this way. I am truly sorry for the sake of the family,” she said.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here.

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