NEW YORK - Doctors told a patient’s family that she was dead. Grieving, the family agreed to donate the woman’s organs. The organ transport team arrived to St. Joseph’s Hospital Center to remove the organs and as they were ready to cut the woman open, she woke up to stop the doctors just in time from removing her organs.
The patient in this case has been identified as Coleen S. Burns. Burns suffered a drug overdose and was taken to the Syracuse hospital. Doctors pronounced the woman dead, despite the fact that the nurse caring for her told the physicians she was recovering from an overdose.
The woman showed full signs of life: when staff did a reflex test on the woman, her toes curled appropriately. When the respirator was removed from her, she was able to breath on her own. The woman’s lips and tongues were observed moving. Despite all this
The family was told that Burns had died and they agreed to donate her organs. All the signs pointed to Burns still being alive, but no one put a stop to getting her prepared to take out her organs. The staff did the reflex tests on the woman, her toes curled and she also appeared to breathe on her own once the respirator was removed. Even her lips and tongue were observed moving moments before doctors prepared to remove her organs.
At this point, the doctors did not stop plans for organ removal. Despite the fact the woman showed signs of life, they gave an order to give the woman a powerful sedative. A sedative is not needed on a patient who is not dead. The nurse still followed the doctor’s order and administered the sedative.
Burns managed to still wake up and demand the doctors stop trying to remove her organs. The case happened in 2009, but the incident was finally made public knowledge in the past week.
According to the American Association for Justice, cases like this are actually not rare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services issued a fiery statement: “Despite this sequence of events,” according to a federal report the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “intensive objective peer review and root cause analysis of the case was not done by the hospital’s quality assurance program until prompted by the Department of Health.”
American Association for Justice reports that “preventable medical errors are the sixth largest cause of death in the U.S.”
If the story is not bad enough already, it has a nice slap at the end. For a punishment, the hospital was cities and sanctioned for its actions. It was only directly fined $22,000. Burns did not take legal action against the hospital and did not sue it, though if this case were reported to the public in a more timely manner hell could have been brought down upon the facility.
As of right now, the Department of Health has no official way of accounting of how many times these incidents occur. A new media movement will have to pressure officials to make stringent requirement for hospitals to report these incidents, and criminalize all involved in cases such as this. Those who fail to report any type of incident such as this should be culpable as criminals and murderers, which is what you call it when you –as the most highly trained group of people on Earth to determine if a person is living– decide to let them die so you can harvest their organs.