Dead Man's Parents Were Not Called in EMS Delay Case

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008

For two days, while Jeremy Miller's body lay unclaimed in a morgue at the D.C. medical examiner's office, his parents in Fredericksburg had no idea he was dead.

No D.C. officials called his parents, even as authorities investigated why fire and emergency department workers drove to the wrong site looking for him after a passerby called 911 to report that Miller was having a seizure on a street in Northeast. Rescue workers had initially given up looking for Miller but were sent back to the scene.

No one called his parents from Howard University hospital, where emergency workers brought his body April 2. Although Jay Miller says his son had a cellphone on him with entries for "Mom" and "Dad," the hospital and medical examiner's office left messages on Jeremy Miller's home phone in Spotsylvania, where the 35-year-old computer technician lived alone. The hospital and medical examiner's office left word that they were looking for the dead man's family. But Jay Miller discovered the messages only when he went to his son's house after learning from a newspaper reporter that his son had died.

"We still have not been contacted about his death," Jay Miller said yesterday. His only contact with the city, he said, was when he called the medical examiner's office Friday for confirmation.

It is unclear who had the responsibility for notifying family members about the death.

The fire department said it was the hospital's responsibility.

Howard University Hospital said Miller was dead on arrival, and when the hospital was unsuccessful in reaching family members, it turned the case over to the medical examiner's office.

The medical examiner's office said it relies on the D.C. police to make all notifications. D.C. police said they were not notified about the Miller case or asked to contact the family.

Jay Miller wonders whether his family would have been contacted at all had he not initiated a call to the medical examiner's office.

"What is their protocol?" Miller asked.

The day after Jeremy Miller died, the fire department called a good Samaritan to thank him for dialing 911 when he saw Miller fall to the ground, according to the 911 caller, who agreed to talk to a reporter only if his name was not published. The department told him Miller's name and said he lived in Spotsylvania County, the caller said.

Jeremy Miller's mother, Belva Miller, sent a few text messages to her son the afternoon of April 2, unaware that he had died, she said.

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