Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dead man recovers

A man whose heart had stopped beating woke up just as surgeons were about to remove his organs for donation, it was disclosed yesterday.
Doctors in Paris earlier this year called in transplant surgeons after failing to resuscitate a 45-year old man believed to have suffered a massive heart attack in the French capital.
According to a report by the Paris university hospital's ethics committee - seen by Le Monde newspaper - doctors continued providing a heart massage for an hour and a half while they waited for the surgeons to arrive.
When the surgeons began operating on the man to remove his organs, he began to breathe, his pupils became responsive and he reacted to a pain test.

"After a few weeks chequered with serious complications, the patient is now walking and talking," said the report. It is not known whether the man is aware of how close he was to losing his organs.
The incident highlights the ethical problems doctors face in deciding when a donor is really dead.
Emergency service staff interviewed in the report said they knew of other situations where "a person who everyone was convinced was dead survived after prolonged re-animation moves well beyond usual timeframes or even those considered reasonable."
They pointed out that if they had followed the rules to the letter, such patients "would probably have been considered deceased."
In particular, the case is likely to ignite public debate over so-called controlled non-heart-beating organ donation (NHBOD) – retrieving organs when the heart stops, which has only been legal in France since last year. Before then a patient had to be declared brain dead before transplant could occur. NHBOD is legal in the UK.


Ma Tucker said...

"doctors continued providing a heart massage for an hour and a half while they waited for the surgeons to arrive."

If it were not for organ donation they would not have massaged his heart for so long. In doing so they have discovered something new. I hope they do some research now to determine how long heart massage should be done before death is assumed.

Anyway, why did they want the heart of a heart attack victim??

bernadette said...

I hope I have the good fortune never to die in France.

Roses and Jessamine said...

This is a really difficult moral problem. On the one hand, whipping a vital organ out might be saving another's life. On the other, how do you decide how long the heart must have stopped before it can be removed? How do you define physical death? Sometimes the heart stops but brain activity continues for some time. Then there's consent. If the (dying) donor has no next of kin, is it morally justifiable to take his organs without his consent? Are families qualified to make decisions on organ donation while distressed about potentially losing a loved one?

Hilary said...

In Ontario, if I'm not mistaken, they are considering implementing a rule that organs may be removed once the heart has stopped beating on its own for five minutes.