"No," says Dr. Zeus. But the bereaved is not reassured.
“This is Mr. X. I need to know something very important. Did you make sure my mother was dead?”They speak for an hour. But two days later, he calls back:
“Her doctor told me she had a pacemaker, and that it would work for over ten years.”
“Yes, those batteries run a long time.”
“Well, if the pacemaker was working, that means she was still alive, so I buried her when she was still alive. Did you check that she was dead?”
I look at the phone. Take a deep breath. Always tell the truth.
“We don’t make a diagnosis of death here at the Coroner’s Office, sir. They’re pronounced somewhere else.”
“Do they ever wake up?”
Another look at the phone. I explained that people are examined before they arrive, and they are put on a cold metal tray in a freezer. If they were asleep, they’d wake up.
He wasn’t convinced...
He’s still upset and can’t sleep. He still thinks his mother is buried alive. As it’s been three months since his mother’s funeral, she’s not alive anymore—even if she was buried alive, which she wasn’t...Ultimately, the man is referred to a grief counselor.
This conversation takes another hour. Logic is not helpful; his fear is neither logical nor rational. Finally, I refer him to my boss. I take his number, and tell him the boss will call.
I go to the boss’s office to brief her. She looks at me like I’ve grown a third head.
“Does he think a pacemaker makes his mother immortal?”
“I made that point boss.”
“A pacemaker won’t work on a dead heart, William.”
“I told him that, too.”