By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
PARIS, France, June 12, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Parisian whose organs were about to be removed by doctors after he had "died" of a heart attack, revived on the operating table only minutes before doctors began to harvest his organs.
The 45 year-old man, whose name has been withheld by the French media, was given heart massage by paramedics after collapsing on a street in Paris earlier this year. He was then transferred to a nearby hospital for further emergency procedures, but doctors were not able to restore a consistent heartbeat.
After deciding that they would be unable to dilate the coronary artery (which supplies the heart with blood and is blocked or constricted during a heart attack), the doctors decided to extract the patient’s organs for transplant. Transplant doctors were not available at the time, and heart massage was applied for an hour and thirty minutes until the doctors arrived. Le Monde newspaper says that during this period doctors were still unable to revive the heart.
However, when the transplant doctors prepared to operate, they noticed the patient was breathing, his pupils were dilating and he was reacting to pain. He was very clearly alive.
Several weeks later, the patient was walking and talking.
"All of the specialist medical literature on the subject comes to the conclusion that a person who is a victim of cardiac arrest who is given cardiac massage correctly for thirty minutes, is, in all likelihood, in a state of brain death," professor Alain Tenaillon, who is responsible for transplants with the French Agency of Biomedicine, told Le Monde. "But we must recognize that there are exceptions."
An ethics committee report created by the hospital in response to the case recorded comments from medical personnel who admitted that, while rare, such cases of "brain dead" patients spontaneously reviving are common knowledge among them.
The report acknowledged that, according to current hospital policies regarding brain death, the patient "would probably have been considered dead". Le Monde added that according to experts, "this situation is a striking illustration of the issues that persist in the field of resuscitation, procedures and criteria to conclude the failure of resuscitation".
As LifeSiteNews has reported in the past, the concept of "brain death" was first applied in 1968. The term is used to justify removing organs from patients who are breathing and have a heartbeat, the most common circumstance under which organ donation takes place. Prior 1968, the prolonged absence of heartbeat and respiration were the standard criteria for certifying death (http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/1999/mar/99030301.html).
Dr. John Shea, a medical advisor to Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, points out in a recent article that patients diagnosed as "brain dead" often continue to exhibit brain functions.
In "Organ Donation: The Inconvenient Truth" (http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007_docs/Organdonationinconvenienttruth.pdf), Shea states that the criteria for "brain death" only "test for the absence of some specific brain reflexes. Functions of the brain that are not considered are temperature control, blood pressure, cardiac rate and salt and water balance. When a patient is declared brain dead, these functions are not only still present, but also frequently active."
Shea also notes that the very definition of "brain death" is vague and inconsistent: "There is no consensus on diagnostic criteria for brain death. They are the subject of intense international debate. Various sets of neurological criteria for the diagnosis of brain death are used."
"A diagnosis of death by neurological criteria is theory, not scientific fact," writes Shea. "Also, irreversibility of neurological function is a prognosis, not a medically observable fact."
The major media has reported three cases so far this year of individuals declared "brain dead" who later revived (see links below). In the case of 21 year-old Zack Dunlap, an MRI scan reportedly indicated no blood flow to his brain. Dunlap began to react to pain only moments before doctors were to remove his organs. He recovered with only some memory loss.
Related LifeSiteNews.com articles:
Organ Donation: The Inconvenient Truth, by Dr. John Shea
Woman’s Waking After Brain Death Raises Many Questions About Organ Donation
Doctor Says about "Brain Dead" Man Saved from Organ Harvesting - "Brain Death is Never Really Death"
Woman Diagnosed as "Brain Dead" Walks and Talks after Awakening
The Inconvenient Truth About Organ Donations
Mother Alleges Doctor Murdered Her Handicapped Son to Harvest His Organs
Organ Donation after Cardiac Death a Danger to Critical Patients ~ Medical Professor
Questions Answered on Organ Donation: Interview with Dr. John B. Shea M.D
HEART TRANSPLANTS: IS BRAIN DEATH REAL DEATH?