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“Dead” man wakes up just before his organs are removed

June 14th, 2008 · No Comments

Surgeons removing organs for transplant

If you are an organ donor in France (or anywhere really), you may want to pay attention to this story. We think donating organs is a beneficial and selfless act that is good for society, but debate has always raged whether or not a surgeon or doctor would treat an organ donor patient differently than a non-donor. Well, a 45-year-old who recently suffered a heart attack and was pronounced “dead” came back to life moments before his organs were to be removed for transplants. The man is only alive today because initially the surgeons authorized to remove organs were unavailable. Wow, that’s pretty lucky! This might cause a review of experimental “stopped heart” rules implemented to speed up the organ donation process.

France and other nations have adopted a new policy in which people who’s hearts stop and fail to respond to prolonged massage can be pronounced dead, but this definition of death is controversial.

From the Independent article:

The 45-year-old at the centre of the controversy collapsed close to the La Pitié-Salpêtriere hospital. Efforts were made to revive him at the scene, and more elaborate procedures continued at the hospital for 90 minutes. As surgeons were preparing to remove his vital organs, the man began to breathe unaided. His pupils moved and he showed signs of pain. His heart started to beat again. After several weeks during which he was gravely ill, the man can now walk and talk. He has yet to be told that doctors were ready to remove his organs.

Other doctors have seen similar incidents, according to the ethics committee report. “During the meeting, other reanimators … spoke of situations in which a person whom everyone was sure had died in fact survived after reanimation efforts that went on much longer than usual,” the report said. “Participants conceded that these were exceptional cases, but ones that were nevertheless seen in the course of a career.”

Le Monde said doctors had feared the new transplant rules would confront them with cases of this kind. They believe the existing rules are imprecise and could undermine public support for the removal of organs for transplant. They are pushing for the issue to be discussed as part of a consultation next year on a proposed, new law on medical ethics.

Right now we’re sure the man considers himself lucky to be alive, and he’ll only feel luckier if he ever learns the truth behind his survival!


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