Kansas City widow waits 6 weeks for death certificate - KCTV5

Kansas City widow waits 6 weeks for death certificate

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Muriel Martin says she’s baffled as to why it was taking more than six weeks for a doctor to sign her husband's death certificate. (KCTV5) Muriel Martin says she’s baffled as to why it was taking more than six weeks for a doctor to sign her husband's death certificate. (KCTV5)

George Martin died on Nov. 26, 2016.

He was a patient at Carondelet Manor recovering from a broken hip and was rushed to St. Joseph Medical Center’s emergency room where he died.

“She said his heart stopped beating,” widow Muriel Martin said.

She says she’s baffled as to why it was taking more than six weeks for a doctor to sign the death certificate. The delay meant she couldn’t access her husband’s life insurance policy or apply for a higher social security death benefit.

Everything hinges on that death certificate.

“I just think it’s horrible! To me it’s horrible! I just can’t imagine it would take this long to get a death certificate!” Muriel Martin said.

She says she was embarrassed to reach out for help, but she was running out of money and prescription medication. Her bills were piling up, and she had not paid her annual property taxes.

Muriel Martin says she is grateful to Catholic Charities who helped pay her water bill when she received a shut off notice.

“This has really humbled me,” she said.

KCTV5 News researched death certificates and discovered there are clear state statues.

A death certificate should be issued in five days. When it’s natural cases, the information is to be entered in 36 hours. But in George Martin’s case, things had dragged on for more than six weeks.

KCTV5 contacted the funeral home that helps process the death certificate. But that all hinges on doctor’s signature which is what Muriel Martin was told was the hold up.

KCTV5 questioned the emergency room where George Martin died. A spokesperson for Saint Joseph Medical Center explained when a person dies in the emergency room, a medical examiner or the patient’s primary care physician is responsible for determining cause of death and signing the death certificate.

Saint Joseph Medical Center provided this statement:

“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Martin. It is our hope that her issue gets resolved quickly and to her benefit. HIPAA prevents us from discussing any patient care. St. Joseph Medical Center follows every procedure when a patient passes away.”

That led KCTV5 to the nursing home where George Martin was under a doctor’s care. We informed the medical director of the delay who promised to look into it.

Within a few days of KCTV5 making phone calls and asking questions in person, George Martin’s death certificate was signed. We personally picked up the death certificate from the nursing home and delivered it to his widow.

“Oh, my goodness nothing will bring him back this will make it easier for me I can't understand why it took so long?” questions Muriel Martin. “It could have gone on and on if had you not all stepped in. No one would never have done this. Because I did everything I was supposed to do and I called everyone and it was leading me to a dead end. I am so thankful to you.”  

KCTV5 also contacted Muriel Martin’s mail order pharmacy when we learned she had run out of medications, Muriel Martin has suffered strokes and says the stress from this ordeal led to a recent trip to the emergency room. That company provided free medications to Muriel Martin and sent us this statement:

"Prescription medications were provided through Rx Outreach, a national, nonprofit pharmacy that improves the accessibility of affordable medication to people who are uninsured, underinsured, or insured but still cannot afford medication."

No has taken responsibility for the delay or apologized to Muriel Martin.

The doctor who ultimately signed the death certificate is not on staff at Saint Joseph Medical Center and is not a direct employee of Carondelet Manor. The office manager for that physician explained that doctor does see patients inside Carondelet Manor. The doctor did not return our call.

KCTV5 is not naming the doctor. It is unclear if that physician became aware of the situation and helped resolve it or if he was responsible for the delay. Muriel Martin did not recognize the name of the doctor as one her husband’s primary physicians.

It is unlikely there will be any consequences for what happened. The Department of Health explained that while there are state statues for how death certificates are to be handled there are no specific penalties.

“I'm just thankful to have the death certificate so I can go on with my life but something needs to be done because if happened to me it's going to happen to someone else,” Muriel Martin said.

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