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Woman Mistakenly Pronounced Dead Nearly Had Organs Harvested While Awake

In an almost stranger-than-fiction event at a Syracuse hospital, a woman who was mistakenly pronounced dead nearly had her organs harvested while she lay awake on the operating table. The woman had suffered a cardiac arrest which prompted nurses to declare her deceased. Since she was an organ donor, she was then prepared for organ harvesting.

She actually wasn't dead. She was in a coma though. According to reports, the woman had overdosed on medications like Xanax and Benadryl that ushered in the coma. The hospital staff did not classify the woman's condition as a coma though. Instead, they told her family that she was brain dead. After learning that their loved one was brain dead and only surviving on life support, they gave the hospital permission to take her off of that support and then harvest her internal organs.

Before the patient had fully awoken from her coma, she gave off signs that she was in fact alive. One of those signs was that her toes curled after the hospital staff ran a reflex test. Doctors and nurses also noticed that the woman's nostrils were flared. This would seem to indicate that she was using her own strength to breath, rather than relying on the respirator which had not yet been shut off. Despite these and other signs of possible life, a nurse injected the woman's body with a sedative.

There is a major discrepancy between these reports and the written reports of the doctors at this healthcare facility. Not only was there no note made of the woman's movements while on the respirator, there was also no note of any nurse injecting the woman's body with the sedative (Ativan).

It was not until this woman opened her eyes on the operating table that the physicians decided to call the organ harvesting procedure off. The woman was in the hospital for a total of two weeks. Surprisingly, neither this patient or her family members chose to file a lawsuit against the hospital. In another tragic turn of events, the patient that had recently escaped death by the skin of her teeth decided to take her life by way of overdose. She died just over a year after the hospital incident.

The state of New York stepped in and required the hospital to pay a fine of $22,000 not only for this particular incident, but for another incident involving a patient that sustained a head injury while under the hospital's care. The hospital was also required to submit to an outside review for quality and to hire a neurologist to consult them on matters of brain death and brain trauma diagnosis.

This is a case which is all too common and indicative of the sad state of hospital care in the United States in our times. Medical malpractice and hospital errors result in over 100,000 deaths annually in our country. The statistics for those injured, maimed or misdiagnosed are simply too numerous to be counted. Hospital care in our country needs major upgrading and safety precautions. This will cost tremendous capital and require a shift in the manner health care is delivered.

Categories: Medical Malpractice


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