Pronounced dead in N.Y.C. -- but she wasn't

June 16, 1993|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- A Brooklyn woman, pronounced dead by emergency medical technicians, lay on the floor of her apartment for at least two hours until an investigator from the city Medical Examiner's office heard a gurgling sound and realized she was alive.

The woman, Nancy Vitale, 40, a teacher, was unconscious and in critical condition yesterday at Coney Island Hospital as the police, the Emergency Medical Service and the medical examiner's office defended their actions and said they were not responsible for failing to realize that she needed a doctor, not a coroner.

The confusion began at 6:18 p.m. Monday, when the woman's landlord called 911, saying he had found her body in her basement apartment. Two technicians -- EMS employees with less training than paramedics -- arrived within minutes and pronounced her dead. They notified the medical examiner's office, which sent a doctor, who assumed the woman was dead because the technicians had said so.

When the investigator heard what sounded like a single faint breath, he called for help.

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