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Daughter’s agony as bungling embalmer leaves her late mother’s body ‘bleeding and almost bursting’ after she died from heart failure aged 60


A bungling embalmer who left a late mother’s body ‘bleeding and almost bursting’ has left a grieving daughter traumatised. 

Janice Burlinson, 60, died from ischemic heart failure on April 1 2022 while her daughters, Dayni Douthwaite, was seriously ill in Sunderland Royal Hospital.

While Ms Douthwaite,42, was in hospital with a severe kidney failure she agreed to allow John Duckworth Funeral Directors to take care of her mother. 

However, when Ms Douthwaite visited the funeral home a week later she was horrified to find the body of her mother was bloated with fluid and leaking blood. 

Ms Douthwaite, who lives in Southwick, Sunderland, said: ‘I just knew when I walked in the room that there was something wrong. I walked towards her coffin and I looked in. I got that much of a shock that I went ‘what have you done to her?’

Dayni Douthwaite was left horrified when she discovered her mother's body had not been embalmed properly and was bloated with fluid and leaking blood

Dayni Douthwaite was left horrified when she discovered her mother’s body had not been embalmed properly and was bloated with fluid and leaking blood

Janice Burlinson, 60, passed away from ischemic heart failure on April 1 2022. Her body was entrusted by her daughter to John Duckworth Funeral Directors.  However the embalming process went wrong and as fluid continued to build up it had to be removed from her body

Janice Burlinson, 60, passed away from ischemic heart failure on April 1 2022. Her body was entrusted by her daughter to John Duckworth Funeral Directors.  However the embalming process went wrong and as fluid continued to build up it had to be removed from her body 

Ms Burlinson with her granddaughters: Lacie and Mylie-Rae. Ms Douthwaite says the traumatic experience has had a huge impact on her mental health and has left her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Ms Burlinson with her granddaughters: Lacie and Mylie-Rae. Ms Douthwaite says the traumatic experience has had a huge impact on her mental health and has left her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

She said: ‘She was bleeding and she was bloating. It was shiny down the side of her face. You could see where something had been trickling from her mouth and had been wiped off. I saw it coming out of the top of her lips. My mam’s top teeth were missing.

‘They had used a plastic bag instead of a proper neck support. There were various bits of plastic shoved in the bag, to give it some shape, and it was tied in a knot.’ 

Shocked by the state of her late mother’s remains, Ms Douthwaite had her mother transferred into the care of another funeral director. They confirmed that the embalming process had gone wrong and as fluid continued to build in her stomach and he was left with no choice but to aspirate it from her body. 

Ms Douthwaite then lodged a complaint in to the British Institute of Embalmers and they carried out an investigation which found that John Duckworth Funeral Directors had instructed a self-employed trade embalmer called Shona Hume to carry out the procedure. 

They concluded that she had failed to correctly assess the level of clinical embalming care required and suspended her for 12 months.

A spokesperson for John Duckworth Funeral Directors said: ‘John Duckworth and family have been funeral directors for over 100 years, and have remained a family business throughout that period. The company is committed to providing an exceptional level of service, respect and dignity.

‘We are licensed members of the British Institute of Funeral Directors (a society only open to qualified Funeral Directors) and The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).

‘It would be inappropriate for us to disclose private and personal details about the deceased or this matter, or the events which took place after the deceased left our care. However, we are aware of Ms Douthwaite’s concerns. We and SAIF have been engaging with Ms Douthwaite to address them.’

Ms Douthwaite says the incident has had a huge impact on her mental health and has left her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She said: ‘I have been left with a life sentence, I can’t sleep.

‘I have given them all a chance. I have put my faith into these people to do the right thing. Everyone has apologised to me apart from John Duckworth’s. They’re trying to say there wasn’t a mark on my mam, she was in pristine condition.

‘They tried to say ‘I have done nothing wrong’. They offered me £700 which I declined.’

In another devastating turn of events, Ms Douthwaite discovered that an NHS worker who cared for her mother at Sunderland Royal Hospital had breached trust policies after he disclosed information relating to her mother’s care. 

He then went on to share information from her Facebook post with an operative from John Duckworth Funeral Directors.

John Duckworth Funeral Directors in Sunderland.  An investigation carried out by the British Institute of Embalmers found that John Duckworth Funeral Directors had instructed a self-employed trade embalmer called Shona Hume to carry out the botched  procedure on Ms Burlinson (Google Maps)

John Duckworth Funeral Directors in Sunderland.  An investigation carried out by the British Institute of Embalmers found that John Duckworth Funeral Directors had instructed a self-employed trade embalmer called Shona Hume to carry out the botched  procedure on Ms Burlinson (Google Maps) 

A spokesperson for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We are aware of Ms Douthwaite’s complaint and the allegations that have been made. We are truly sorry for the poor experience she had after her mother sadly passed away and offer our sincere condolences to Ms Douthwaite and her family.

‘We have investigated the claims made and have apologised to Ms Douthwaite as part of the complaints process. Whilst we cannot comment on the specific details of the case, our mortuary staff offer the best possible care for our patients after death, whatever the circumstances. Every death is tragic for loved ones and we recognise the devastating impact when things do not go according to expectations. We aim to improve our services and learn from all feedback that we receive.

‘A full investigation has taken place regarding the alleged actions of the member of staff. Appropriate action has been taken and alternative arrangements have been put in place should another member of Ms Douthwaite’s family need to use the facilities at Sunderland Mortuary.’

A spokesperson for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust added: ‘We are sad to hear of this family’s loss and our thoughts are with them as they grieve for their loved one.

‘The mortuary services at Sunderland Royal Hospital and the members of staff who work there are provided through Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.. We are aware that Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust has been speaking to the family to address concerns they have raised.’



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