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Doctors Nearly Remove Organs From Woman Thought Dead

Jul 09, 2013 07:32 PM EDT
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Operating Room
At exactly midnight Carline Burns opened her eyes to blinding operating lights and doctors (not pictured here) poised to remove her organs so they could be donated to patients on transplant waiting lists.
(Photo : Reuters)

At exactly midnight Carline Burns opened her eyes to blinding operating lights and doctors poised to remove her organs so they could be donated to patients on transplant waiting lists.

The hospital located in upstate New York was fined and forced to undergo an independent quality assurance analysis after the local news outlet, the Syracuse Post-Standard, recently unearthed a document revealing egregious acts of medical malpractice, of which Burns' story was just a part, according to The Washington Times.

Based on the investigation, the mother of three deemed dead by Syracuse's St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center showed several signs of life leading up to the operation. For example, a spokeswoman for the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project, a group designed to increase accountability of medical professionals, said a nurse preparing the woman for organ removal noticed Burns' toes curling during a required reflex test. Furthermore, supposedly dead woman's nostrils appeared to be moving in a breathing motion in the minutes before her planned surgery.

"Dead people don't curl their toes," Dr. Charles Wetli, a forensic pathologist from New Jersey, told the Telegraph.

However, despite these apparent indications of life, a nurse injected Burns with a sedative and sent her to the operating room.

"If you have to sedate them or give them pain medication, they're not brain-dead and you shouldn't be harvesting their organs," Dr. David Mayer, a surgeon and associate professor of clinical surgery at New York Medical College, also explained to the Telegraph.

Ultimately, the state fined St. Joseph's and ordered the hospital to hire a consulting neurologist to teach staff how to accurately diagnose brain death.

Burns eventually left the hospital, having originally entered for an overdose of Xanax, Benadryl and a muscle relaxant, though she committed suicide 16 months later.

"She was so depressed that it really didn't make any difference to her," Burns' mother told the Syracuse Post-Standard.

In the end, the family reported, Burns never seemed upset about nearly having her organs removed, and the family chose not to sue the hospital.

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