April 21, 2024

Surprise on operating table

French heart attack victim lucky the doctors were running behind schedule

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
.” But we have to accept that there are exceptions…. There are no
absolute rules in this area." ~ Independent
(UK), June 12