Funeral Home Director in China: Hospitals Have Sent Bodies With Cause of Death as ‘Unidentified Pneumonia’

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
March 8, 2020Updated: March 15, 2020

A funeral home director in the Chinese city of Jining recently discovered that some bodies the facility received from local hospitals had death certificates marked with “unidentified pneumonia” as the cause of death.

Jining is a city located in eastern China’s Shandong province.

He became concerned that authorities were covering up deaths related to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“My staff only know how to burn bodies. They have very little medical knowledge,” said the funeral home director in an interview with the Chinese-language Epoch Times. “The hospitals wrote the cause of death as unidentified pneumonia. It terrified my staff.”

The director said that in February, his funeral home received four or five bodies with cause of death as “unidentified pneumonia” from the city’s No 1. Hospital and No. 2 Hospital.

Meanwhile, the Jining city government announced on March 8: “As of March 7, 260 patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19 [the disease caused by novel coronavirus] … No patient is in severe or critical condition.”

The funeral home director was concerned that hospitals were not reporting deaths related to the current outbreak. “Hospitals have the capacity to write clearly the cause of death, but they didn’t label it [clearly].”

The director formally lodged complaints with the mayor’s hotline twice in early February.

The call records were confirmed via an internal government document that The Epoch Times obtained. The above-mentioned director first called for help on Feb. 3, saying the unknown cause of death could “put my staff in danger.”

On Feb. 4, the city’s health commission responded to the director’s inquiry, saying that no deaths have been recorded among novel coronavirus patients in the city.

On Feb. 7, the director called the mayor hotline again and asked: “Do these bodies contain contagious viruses?… Our staff at the funeral home don’t have protective suits,” according to the call record.

Epoch Times Photo
A screenshot of an internal government database showing the funeral home director’s phone call to the mayor’s hotline, with private information redacted. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

After the hotline calls, the director said the hospitals no longer sent bodies that died of pneumonia.

“Since Feb. 21, we no longer received these types of bodies from the No. 1 Hospital, No. 2 Hospital, and the Maternal and Child Health Hospital,” the director told The Epoch Times. “The bodies that died of pneumonia were sent to other funeral homes in the city.”

When The Epoch Times contacted the No. 2 Hospital, it responded that it was not a designated hospital for COVID-19 treatment, and does not have the capability to detect whether a patient is infected with the novel coronavirus or not.

Meanwhile, the No. 1 Hospital said they have the capability to detect COVID-19, but the hospital would not conduct a diagnostic test on a patient unless a doctor has approved such testing.

The hospital declined to say whether any of its patients died of the novel coronavirus. It also would not say what criteria doctors use to determine whether a patient should receive a COVID-19 diagnostic test.