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Doctor error nearly led to organ harvesting from a living woman

In spite of the time and effort that medical professionals take to establish their careers, sometimes they make mistakes. Doctor errors can increase the severity of injuries and illnesses that a patient is already suffering and can cause additional ailments or even death.

A New York state hospital was recently fined $22,000 by the state Health Department, partly due to an error that nearly caused the organs of a live woman to be harvested. The woman, who had reportedly overdosed on drugs, was in a deep coma. In spite of reports by nurses that the woman was alive and improving, hospital staff declared her brain dead. She was removed from life support and family members gave permission for her organs to be harvested.

While on the operating table, just as the surgery to remove her organs was set to begin, the woman opened her eyes. At that point, the surgeons stopped. The woman recovered and was released from the hospital two weeks later. This all happened in 2009, and the report just came out recently.

According to records from the state Health Department, the hospital did not investigate how these errors occurred until a surprise inspection the following year. Further, the department stated that the hospital's physicians performed inadequate evaluations of the patient, inadequate brain scans, and failed to administer treatment that would have prevented the drugs she overdosed on from being absorbed into her system. The report also pointed out the failure to heed that nurse's assertion that the patient not only wasn't dead but was also improving.

Neither the woman nor the family filed any kind of suit related to the medical errors. The decision to litigate in these kinds of cases is always a personal one, but one that can be made with assistance from someone experienced in dealing with hospitals and insurance companies.

Source: Syracuse Post-Standard, "St. Joe's 'dead' patient awoke as docs prepared to remove organs," John O'Brien, July 7, 2013

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