'Dead' Woman Opens Eyes, Stops Organ Harvest
Syracuse hospital nearly killed her after mistaken death pronouncement
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2013 7:22 PM CDT
Updated Jul 13, 2013 9:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Syracuse Post-Standard has a medical story equal parts amazing and scary: Doctors who thought a 41-year-old woman was dead were preparing to remove her organs when she opened her eyes in the operating room. St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center eventually got fined $6,000 by the state after investigators found a series of mistakes in the near disaster, the most jarring of which is that doctors disregarded a nurse's observation that the patient had been showing signs of improvement and was not, in fact, dead. The woman had overdosed on Xanax and other drugs, and doctors concluded she had suffered not only a "cardiac death" but irreversible brain damage, reports the newspaper. Neither was the case.

Doctors scheduled the organ removal even after a nurse noticed that the woman's toes curled during a reflex exam; she also appeared to be breathing independently of her respirator. And still, the operation went forward, or would have had the woman not opened her eyes. A sad coda: The patient was released from the hospital two weeks after the incident, but she killed herself more than a year later, in 2011. (Details are just now coming to light thanks to a FOIA request by the Post-Standard.) St. Joseph's tells the New York Daily News it regrets the error and worked to set things right by the patient's family, which did not want the incident discussed publicly. Click for the full story. (This isn't the first instance of a supposedly dead person waking up, either; there was this time. And this time. And this time. And this time. Yeah, it happens a lot.)

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Nov 14, 2014 4:18 PM CST
I'll bet they told the nurse she was crazy. Doctors blog too.
wulff707 .
Jul 23, 2014 11:27 AM CDT
Is it any wonder a lot of people don't want to be an organ donor? These ghouls are so eager to remove the organs they forget their oath and start harvesting! You won't see a custom license plate on any of my family that says "Be an organ donor!" This is one area that needs to be monitored better! The 'doctors' who ignored the nurse who tried to stop them should all be fired and pay more than $6000 fines! How can they sleep at night? Wonder if their families are organ donors? Disgusting!
Jul 13, 2013 11:17 AM CDT
RIP Colleen Burns, a woman with both mental and drug issues with nobody to advocate for her; its almost as if she was disposable and they couldn't wait to sell her organs. It was not so long ago when the US media was getting very righteous about China executing people, with rare blood types, on trumped up charges just to harvest the organs. Yet barely a sound on this one with the media.