Mother’s body ‘missing’ in hospital mishap

The heartbreak of losing a loved family member was multiplied for a Mandurah woman, after her mother’s body “went missing” from hospital for three weeks, when it was meant to be donated to science. 

Karen Keele was by her mother Gloria Jean Keele’s bedside when she lost her battle with cancer, in Joondalup Hospital on June 3.

Karen said she was told by a staff member the hospital would organise Gloria’s transfer to the University of Western Australia’s anatomy department.

“She’s always wanted her body to go to science...she was adamant,” she said. 

“The doctors, social workers, nurses – everyone knew that’s what she wanted, because she made such a drama about it. 

“We made sure all the paperwork was done.”

Karen said she “assumed” her mother’s body had gone to the university following her death.

But when she applied for her mother’s death certificate at the Mandurah Courthouse on Friday June 22, she was told there was “no registration of death”. 

Now UWA won’t take her because it’s too late

Karen Keele

Karen’s sister Natalie Gollucio said she called UWA who did not have the body, but they did have Gloria’s application paperwork.

Natalie said she called Joondalup Hospital and spoke to three different staff members, none of whom knew where where her mother’s body was.

Natalie said she was told “the records weren’t where they should be”.

Meanwhile, Karen said a UWA staff member rang the hospital and was told Gloria’s body was relocated to Bowra & O’Dea funeral services because “the hospital morgue was full”. 

“They didn’t notify us that she had been moved,” she said. 

“She was just sitting there for three weeks instead of going to science. 

“Now UWA won’t take her because it’s too late.”

The UWA website states a deceased body can not be accepted after five days

Natalie said she was told by a hospital staff member there would be an investigation into the incident and someone would call her. 

She said she was yet to receive a phone call or an apology. 

Joondalup Health Campus clinical services director Ben Irish told the Mandurah Mail the hospital was deeply sorry for the distress caused to the family.

“We take their concerns seriously and a full investigation continues. Until this investigation is complete it is not possible to comment further,” he said. 

A Joondalup Health Campus spokeswoman said the response was developed with Department of Health service provider North Metro Health Service. 

A Bowra & O’Dea spokeswoman confirmed the body was in their care.

She said it was not uncommon for hospitals to request external providers to care for deceased when required.

The University of Western Australia was contacted but declined to comment due to privacy reasons.