"We're sorry. We thought you were dead," might be the first thought. Or, more accurately, "sorry we didn't enforce standard procedures to make sure you were dead before we were to take your organs. This blog post arises from a true story in which a hospital was fined last September in the amount of $22,000 for failing to enforce policies to protect organ donors from overzealous surgeons. The actual CMS report is available here. It seems that a 40-year old woman was admitted for a drug overdose. Her family was told she was dead from irreversable brain damage and agreed to organ donation. Before the organs could be harvested the nurses documented toe-curling on stimulation, tachycardia, fighting the ventilator, and mouthing of her lips and tongue - none of which a brain-dead patient can do. Even more disturbing, a nurse administered a sedative before a follow-up neuro exam. Needless to say, dead people don't need sedation. It was only when the surgeons had the patient in the operating room and were about to begin cutting, and the patient opened her eyes, that someone said "maybe we are being a bit hasty with this taking-the-organs-thing we are doing." (Of course, I am paraphrasing here. I suspect in reality the actual words were "oh s+@#" but the meaning is the same). The most disturbing part of the whole thing is that even after the whole chain of events unfolded, the hospital did not do any sort of an investigation into what happened and how to prevent it from happening again - until the authorities jumped into it months later. Thus, the fine. And, of course, the hospital never told the family what really happened. So, readers can add this story to the list of reasons why special secrecy laws that protect hospitals are outdated and should be changed to increase protection of patients.
For more information or to investigate your own family's possible medical malpractice case, please contact Girards Law Firm at 888-897-2762.