The family of a deceased South Carolina grandmother is demanding answers after they say officials listed "COVID-19 complications" on the death certificate — despite the grandmother never testing positive for the virus.
Kimberly Klosterman told WIS-TV that her 79-year-old grandmother Joan Hill died on July 31 after suffering from dementia for years. Hill had moved into the home of her daughter, Klosterman's mom, in January, and was receiving in-home hospice care, according to WIS.
Joan Hill. (Image source: WIS-TV screenshot)
Upon receiving Hill's death certificate, her family was shocked — it listed both Alzheimer's disease and COVID-19 complications as the cause of death.
But that is not correct, the family told WIS. That's because Hill never tested positive for coronavirus, nor did she ever exhibit symptoms of the virus.
"That was wrong. She had never been tested before or after death, so I wasn't sure how that could even be listed on her death certificate," Klosterman explained. "She was breathing fine; that was the last thing to go for her. Her lung function was good up until the very end, so there were zero symptoms of COVID whatsoever."
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, who was called to respond to Hill's death, said there need to be answers as to why COVID-19 was listed on the death certificate.
"When you (WIS) contacted me was the first time we were made aware that there was anything listed as far as COVID," Watts said. "When we took the call originally, it was a patient with Alzheimer's — nothing was mentioned about COVID-19 at that time."
"It's certainly something that needs to be answered as to why that happened, and who made that decision, and why that decision was made if there was no indication at the time of death," he added. "I think the family deserves an answer. I think all of us deserve an answer."
Watts told WIS that a hospice physician was responsible for listing Hill's cause of death.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control declined to say whether Hill's death was included in the state's COVID-19 death count, citing privacy laws.
When Klosterman reached out to the DHEC for answers, the agency told her to contact Amedisys, the hospice care organization that cared for her grandmother. Amedisys claimed their employees "acted in accordance with the Coroner's Office and followed clinical protocols."
Klosterman told WIS, "I am very aware that COVID is real. I've known people that have had it, that have been hospitalized for it, that have passed away from it."
"But to have a report come back and say that that's what my grandmother passed away from when she was never even tested, had no symptoms, it's just devastating," she told WIS.