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Patient prepped for organ donation not quite dead

People in Florida might be interested to hear about the case of a woman who opened her eyes just as doctors were beginning to remove her organs. The woman was believed to be dead, and doctors were preparing to remove her organs and donate them to patients who were on the organ transplant waiting list. The near organ-removal of the patient who was still alive occurred at St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York in 2009.

A report done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed the series of events that led to the living patient almost having her organs removed. The report revealed that doctors had incorrectly diagnosed the woman with irreversible brain damage. They also reportedly ignored reports from the nurses that the woman seemed to be improving, curling her toes when touched, flaring her nostrils and moving her mouth and tongue. She was even reportedly breathing on her own even though she was hooked up to a respirator. The misdiagnosis almost ended up costing the woman her life.

The woman was originally found unconscious and surrounded by empty bottles of various medications, including Xanax, a muscle relaxer, Benadryl and an anti-inflammatory drug. After she was transported to St. Joseph's, doctors performed toxicology tests on her and determined that she was suffering from drug overdose. Poison control specialist had suggested that doctors use activated charcoal to help stop the woman's body from absorbing the drugs, but they never did. The woman eventually began having seizures, and EEG brain scans indicated that that woman had a poor prognosis. Doctors eventually told her family that she had suffered from a cardiorespiratory arrest.

Although the woman awakening before doctors removed her organs saved her life, it did not end her depression and she eventually took her own life. Her family never sued for medical malpractice. However, for those who have been misdiagnosed, medical malpractice attorneys might be able to help them file claims.

Source: ABC News, "Patient wakes up as doctors get ready to remove organs", Sydney Lupkin, July 09, 2013

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