An 82-year-old woman was pronounced dead at a New York nursing home but found to be breathing three hours later at the funeral home where she had been taken.

The woman was said to be dead at Water's Edge Rehab and Nursing Centre at Port Jefferson on Long Island at 11.15am on Saturday, Suffolk County police said.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was taken to the OB Davis Funeral Homes in Miller Place at 1.30pm. She was discovered breathing at 2.09pm.

She was taken to a hospital. No update on her condition was available last night.

The case has been referred to the state attorney general’s office for investigation, police said.

The state health department is investigating, as well, spokeswoman Monica Pomeroy said.

Officials at the funeral home said in a statement: "Out of respect for the privacy and confidentiality of the families we are honoured to serve, we are not in a position to comment further on this matter."

The apparent premature declaration of death occurred days after a care home in Iowa was fined 10,000 dollars over a similar episode.

Authorities said a 66-year-old woman was declared dead on 3 January, at the Glen Oaks Alzheimer’s Special Care Centre in Urbandale, where she was receiving hospice care.

The woman was placed in a body bag and taken to the Ankeny Funeral Home and Crematory, where workers found she was breathing and called police, authorities said.

She was returned to hospice care, where she died on 5 January, according to a report issued last week by the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals.