File picture: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

Durban – Lucy Davids was a dignified woman but the much-loved septuagenarian was stripped of her dignity in death, and someone should be held accountable, her outraged family says.

The 79-year-old Pietermaritzburg woman had to have a closed-casket funeral last week after her body was released from hospital in an appalling condition.

“What happened was completely wrong. Her body was cut and left wide open. There were tubes inside her. No one should ever be treated like that,” said her son Jeff.

He said he believed there was negligence involved and vowed to find out what had occurred.

The funeral parlour has pointed fingers at Grey’s Hospital, from where the body was collected.

Grey’s and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health are investigating the incident.

Describing the body, another family member, speaking under anonymity, said: “She still had a colostomy bag attached to her. There were tubes in her mouth and

on her body. There was an open wound on her stomach that was not stitched back. She was leaking bodily fluids from every orifice.”

“We could not bury her like that. It is unacceptable”.

Davids was admitted to Grey’s Hospital on February 23. She had a large purple lump on her abdomen, which caused her great distress. When she was prescribed a course of antibiotics, her condition worsened. The lump turned septic and she suffered multiple organ failure.

Davids was then booked into the hospital for surgery. By the end of the week, doctors advised the family that there was nothing else they could do. On March 2, Davids was pronounced dead.

The family member said: “We understood that there was nothing left to do, but what killed us was the state that they left her in.”

On Saturday, another relative, Lucy’s niece, who is a nurse, was called by the funeral parlour to say that her body was so swollen, she could not fit into the clothes provided for burial.

“So I fetched a bigger dress, and upon seeing her body, I was appalled,” the family member said.

“There was a tube in her neck, still oozing discharge. The wound had not been cleaned and was just bandaged over. The colostomy bag was still attached, as was a drainage tube from the open wound that ran from her rib cage to the hip bone. There was a visible pipe, and that should have been removed. She had tubes in her mouth for two days and we were told they would stitch her lips together. The stench that was emanating from her was unbearable.

“All I can imagine is how much pain and suffering she went through in her last days,” she said. “Lucy was a dignified woman... She was meticulous. And now, in her death, there was no dignity, no caring, no consideration for her or the family. She was stripped of everything. Even an animal isn’t treated like this.

“We had to ask the priest to announce that no one could see her. We had to constantly spray air freshener in the church during the funeral,” the family member said.

She said that to their credit, the funeral home, Imbali Funeral Furnishers, had always been excellent in past funerals. “I’ve had no complaints. I understand that in death there are post-mortems and complications, and you deal with it.

“What should have happened is that someone, either from Grey’s Hospital or Imbali, who saw the body and knew the state she was in, should have at least communicated with us, told us what to expect.

“Leaving tubes in her that were leaking pus? Leaving bags attached to her, not cleaning the wounds, or stitching it back up, that is despicable and unacceptable. This is the job they are paid to do. They are used to death and bodies.”

Bob Jadoo, who runs Imbali Funeral Furnishers in Pietermaritzburg, denied any wrongdoing.

“I know they complained that there was oozing, but there was no oozing. Her body was swollen because of surgery. That should have been done by the hospital, and that wasn’t right. They should not have treated the patient like that.”

Asked why there was no communication, he said: “Communication is not our decision. That’s up to the hospital and the family.”

KZN Department of Health spokesman Hlongwane Agiza said the department noted the allegations “with grave concern” and had asked for a full report from Grey’s Hospital.