Grand Strand family frustrated after mother’s death certificate amended to say ’COVID-19 exposure’

Updated: Sep. 4, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - A Grand Strand family hoped to have some closure on Friday, but instead, it only grew their frustrations.

WMBF Investigates followed up with the family who has been seeking to have their mother’s death certificate amended after the doctor mistakenly labeled it as a death caused by COVID-19.

RELATED COVERAGE | ‘It’s like a slap in the face’: Grand Strand family finds COVID-19 mislabeled on mother’s death certificate

Brenda Presley said she checked in with Ridgeway Funeral Home for an update on the online WebDeath system, to see if the requested change was finally reflected.

Presley’s mother’s death certificate had originally listed acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19 as the cause of death.

Her mother had tested negative for COVID-19 several times, the final time being five days before she passed away on July 18.

The amendment to the certificate was submitted to DHEC on Aug. 21.

Presley last checked on the system on Sept. 1, and then another check on Sept. 4 found an update, but one that confused her.

According to an image captured by the funeral home that Presley shared with WMBF Investigates, the amended certificate now labels her mother’s death as one caused solely by acute respiratory failure. In the Part Two section of the certificate, which lists other significant conditions contributing to death, “COVID-19 exposure” is identified, alongside dementia and CVA, or stroke.

Presley said she was confused as to why she feels there is a persistence to label COVID-19 on the certificate.

“I don’t understand, and I would like for it to be corrected. I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask,” Presley said.

Presley said she doesn’t think the virus should be anywhere on the certificate, and though she feels defeated, she doesn’t want to give up.

“I think it matters a lot to me because I’ve heard of it happening. And again, that’s why I said, you know, ‘I can put this under a rug somewhere and move on, or choose to say why?’ And speak up for other people who aren’t speaking up,” Presley said. “And I just think we - we the people - would like an answer.”

Officials with both the Horry and Georgetown County Coroner’s Offices said COVID-19 exposure being listed as a contributing factor to someone’s death is something they haven’t come across.

The Horry County Coroner’s Office also specified that it’s not a practice of theirs to do that.

WMBF Investigates has reached out to DHEC as well to inquire if COVID-19 exposure is something Vital Statistics affirms as a valid label, as well as if listing such information would mean the death would be added to the state’s overall coronavirus case count.

This is an ongoing investigation. More details will be released as they become available.

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