(KPTV) FOX 12 Investigates reported Tuesday that the Multnomah County Medical Examiner officially ruled a Portland man dead, then months later found him alive.
The Multnomah County Medical Examiner apologized for misdiagnosing 23-year-old Portland resident Tyler Chase, who died of a heroin overdose on Sept. 11, 2018.
After discovering Chase was alive on Dec. 19, his family called FOX 12 Investigates late last month to share their tale.
After FOX 12 Investigates contacted Multnomah County, the medical examiner's office confirmed the mistake and promised a policy change.
On Dec. 18, the county discovered they had declared Tyler Chase deceased on Sept. 11 and notified his family the following day.
Chase, 23, has been in a treatment program for months after dealing with substance misuse and losing contact with his family for years. Chase told FOX 12 Investigates he discovered the problem when his food aid funds remained dormant after being granted in October.
“I go to DHS, and they asked me to enter my social security and everything, and they were like ‘alright we’ll see if we can help you fix this,’” Chase recalled. “Suddenly, they started interrogating me and asking, ‘Oh can we see your ID?’ After giving it to them, they looked as surprised as I did and said, "Right here it says you are dead."
Chase was surprised because he had yet to find his family. Chase had no idea that his family had gotten a stranger's death certificate and urn of ashes.
Chase says Multnomah County's medical examiner's office discovered him at his rehabilitation center on Dec. 19 and apologized for misdiagnosing him. Chase was notified by county officials that the guy discovered dead in Portland had his wallet, which was suspected to have been taken from him at the rehabilitation facility where Chase lives. County authorities and Chase claim the wallet included merely a temporary Oregon driver's license.
Chase stated, “So they find a paper ID of me that’s smudged and everything and they were like ‘that’s Tyler John Chase,’ so they put him down as me. And then they informed the family as usual.”
The dead individual wrongly identified as Chase was not named by the Multnomah County Medical Examiner. A spokesman told FOX 12 Investigates the office apologized and promised policy changes.
“We deeply regret the misidentification,” a county spokeswoman stated. “The deceased person carried Mr. Tyler Chase’s wallet and his official temporary Oregon driver’s license,” thus the misidentification.
After Tyler Chase and his family's uncertainty, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner's Office is implementing improvements, the statement states.
“The medical examiner's office launched a comprehensive review to identify gaps in current practices and implement institutional change. All temporary state-issued ID holders must have their fingerprints taken for positive identification going forward to prevent this from happening again.”
FOX 12 Investigates will interview Chase and a family member next week to learn how they handled this tough circumstance and examine death identification policies.
This story was originally posted by KPTV. You can read it here.