Local News

County Officials Seek Answers After 'Dead' Franklin Man Found Alive In Morgue

Posted January 26, 2005

— Four paramedics and a volunteer EMS are suspended with pay after a medical examiner studying a body in a morgue discovered the person was still alive.

Larry Donnell Green, 29, was removed from the morgue at the Franklin County Sheriff's Department and taken to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, where he is listed in critical condition.

Medical examiner J.B. Perdue was documenting Green's injuries to certify a cause a death when he noticed Green breathing. Green had been declared dead by paramedics at the accident scene Monday after being hit by a car driven by 36-year-old Tamuel Jackson almost two hours earlier at the U.S. 401-N.C. 39 split.

"We were making funeral arrangements, family came by, everybody thought he had passed away," said Green's brother, Steve.

Emergency medical technicians declared Green dead Monday night and put him in a body bag for transport to the morgue. At the morgue, Perdue detected an irregular breath and called the same paramedics who attended to Green to take him to the hospital.

"There's so much emotion inside," said Steve Green, Larry's brother. "I feel relieved, angry, praise God, everything."

Paramedics Randy Kearney, Paul Kilmer, Cathryn Lamell and Pam Hayes, along with volunteer EMT Ronnie Woode, are suspended with pay, until an investigation can determine what went wrong.

"There has been a terrible error made and we are on a fast track to getting these problems corrected, so we don't face such a situation in the future," Franklin County Manager Chris Courdriet said. "It's an unfortunate happening -- no doubt about it."

According to Franklin County protocol, which essentially mirrors state EMS policy, paramedics are not required to attempt resuscitation if they cannot find a pulse and the patient shows some other sign of death.

The policy does not mandate a second opinion before death is declared.

"My whole family is confused because we're wondering what happened. How can you say that someone passed away, but he's still breathing," said Steve Green.

As Green's family sorts through a range of emotion, Franklin County is considering the liability issues.

"That does have consequences financially to the people who live here and to insurance coverage for us, so we are on a committed action to correcting mistakes that have been made," Coudriet said.

Perdue said he has never seen a case like this. He said it was not his job to declare death, but to determine the cause of death.

Green is currently on life support at Duke. Charges against Jackson are pending.

The State Office of EMS will be in Franklin County Thursday to investigate what happened. It is still unclear exactly what efforts paramedics made to determine whether Green was dead or alive. The county attorney hopes to complete his investigation by late Thursday.

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