Woman Accuses Buffalo-Area Hospital of Prematurely Declaring Her Living Husband Dead, Files Lawsuit

A Buffalo woman is suing after she says her husband was alive for hours after a local area hospital declared him dead.

Tammy Cleveland said her husband Michael, 46, appeared to be in perfect health until he collapsed at a grocery store one night 2014. Medics performed CPR and tried to revive his heart before transporting him nearby DeGraff Memorial Hospital. Less than one hour later, however, ER doctor Gregory Perry had pronounced him dead.

“Can you imagine what it must have been like for him? Cleveland told CBS News. “To listen to the people I should be able to trust, tell him, try to convince me and my family that he’s dead, and he’s laying there alive?”

Cleveland said she had her suspicious upon seeing her “dead” husband when she walked into his hospital room. She said he followed her with his eyes as she approached and even tried to hug her. Still, the doctors insisted her husband had passed.

“He brought his legs up on the gurney, knees bent, flat footed,” Cleveland said. “I mean, he was breathing.”

In her suit, the woman claims her husband continued showing signs of life over the next several hours, noting that his chest was moving up and down. She says Michael’s family repeatedly asked hospital staff to check on him and that while Dr. Perry checked his room twice, he never performed any sort of physical to confirm her husband was indeed dead.

“What was his explanation for why Michael was still moving?” CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula asked Cleveland.

“He said that Michael is only 46 years old. He said that he’s got a lot of life … to expel out of his body,” she replied.

It wasn’t until a coroner came to remove Michael’s body from the room that they knew something was odd. Like Cleveland, the coroner noted that “dead people don’t move” and called for Dr. Perry to check Michael’s pulse. Nearly hours and 40 minutes after he was declared dead, doctor’s found a pulse.

It turns out Michael had suffered a heart attack, CBS News reported. He was then taken to Buffalo General Medical Center, nearly three hours after being pronounced dead, where doctors performed surgery to open a blocked artery. It was too late, however. Michael died just before 11 the next morning.

Although the doctor at Buffalo General who unblocked the man’s artery said “he would’ve never survived,” even without the delay at DeGraff, Cleveland is demanding justice for her husband.

“I need closure in that I need accountability,” Cleveland said.

The case is set to go to trial in April.

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