A 39 year-old woman awoke just as the surgeons were about to begin to remove her organs for donation to patients on waiting lists to receive them in a medical malpractice case that occurred in 2009. Although incidents such as this are rare in occurrence, they are an example of how Wisconsin hospitals must ensure that protocol is established and followed when determining whether a patient is truly medically deceased and avoid medical malpractice.
In the incident cited, medical review of the case and the patient's history prior to and during her hospitalization revealed possible factors that might have alerted attending physicians that the woman was not dying and actually showing signs of improvement. For instance, nurses who were attending the woman noticed signs that she was responsive to stimuli such as touch and was breathing on her own despite a respirator also being used.
The incident began due to a drug overdose that had resulted in the woman being unresponsive with low body temperature and a weak pulse. As tests were administered and evaluated, doctors incorrectly diagnosed her as having had cardiorespiratory arrest"and the family made the decision to have life support removed.
Incidents such as this should ideally never happen. The American Academy of Neurology published guidelines on procedures that should be followed to accurately determine brain death. Drug overdose cases may often mimic brain death as was the case with the woman cited above.
When there is concern that medical negligence may have played a role in the death or permanent injury of a patient, family members may find that seeking the assistance of an attorney who is experienced in matters of medical malpractice may help to secure compensation to cover associated expenses while also helping to educate others.
Source: ABC News, "Patient wakes up as doctors get ready to remove organs", Sydney Lupkin, July 09, 2013