Surprise on operating table

A 45-year-old French man who collapsed with a massive heart attack and was pronounced dead, revived just as doctors were about to remove his organs. The man, whose name has not been disclosed by French hospital authorities, can now walk and talk. He owes his life to the late arrival of a transplant team. In a classic case of Gallic understatement, the ethics committee of the Pitié-Salpêtriere hospital in Paris declared that "This situation [illustrates] the questions that remain in reanimation... and what criteria can be used to determine that a reanimation has failed".

The ethics committee also said that other doctors had seen similar cases of unexpected recovery. "Participants conceded that these were exceptional cases, but ones that were nevertheless seen in the course of a career." Under new rules adopted in France last year, a patient’s organs can be removed when his heart and stopped and fails to respond to prolonged massage.

The case raises difficult questions about the morality of organ transplants: how certain can doctors be that a patient has actually died? "All the specialist literature suggests that anyone whose heart has stopped and has been massaged correctly for more than 30 minutes, is probably brain dead,” Professor Alain Tenaillon, a French government expert on organ donation told Le Monde.” But we have to accept that there are exceptions.... There are no absolute rules in this area." ~ Independent (UK), June 12


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