Family protests local hospital, says staff wrongfully declared loved one deceased

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A family is in distress after they say a local hospital has put them through a traumatizing situation.

“At this point we have lost all faith, all confidence in this hospital,” said Stephanie Garcia, a close family friend. “The family is extremely traumatized.”

This, after 39 year-old Jacob Chapman was found unconscious at work on Wednesday, and  brought to Sacred Heart-Bay Hospital in Panama City. Garcia said that day, Chapman’s wife and five kids got the call that no one should ever have to receive. 

“The doctor said that he was sorry to have to inform them, that Mr. Chapman, her husband, was deceased,” Garcia explained.

The family experienced the ultimate shock and grief, until they said another call came seven hours later.

“The mortuary apparently showed up here at the hospital and discovered that his heart was still beating independently,” Garcia said.

She said the hospital called to apologize, saying they “misspoke,” and meant Chapman was brain dead. She said that’s not at all what happened.

“In the presence of witnesses, they said he was deceased and that they should call the mortuary to come pick up his body,” Garcia said. “There’s a big difference.”

She said since then, the family has not been able to get many details about Chapman’s status. Instead, she said hospital staff have asked Chapman’s wife about organ harvesting. Garcia said the trauma continued during Mrs. Chapman’s visit to see her husband.

“She discovered immediately upon going into his room that they had, without permission, and without notifying her, disconnected him from all life-saving measures,” she said. 

Garcia said doctors told them they would restart treatment, but at this point, Chapman’s family and friends say they want him transferred to a different facility. They held a protest outside Sacred Heart on Friday night to express their frustration.

“We’re just trying to get him transferred to a place that’s going to actually help him,” said Jeremiah Williams, another family friend of the Chapmans. “It’s almost like Bay Medical is treating him like he’s expendable.”

Sacred Heart officials said on Saturday that they are unable to comment on the family’s claims due to federal HIPAA laws that protect the privacy of the patient. Garcia said it’s been a situation that no one should ever experience.

“This was egregious,” she said. “At the very least, it was egregious, and we just pray that it doesn’t happen to another family.”

As of Saturday afternoon, Chapman had not yet been transferred to another facility. Garcia said he is a combat veteran, local business owner and worship leader, loved by many in the Panama City community.

UPDATE AUGUST 2ND, 2020:

According to a lawyer representing the family, Chapman has been moved to a VA Hospital facility in Gainesville, Florida. At this time, a status on Chapman’s condition has not been released.

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