A man started to show signs of life just as transplant surgeons were about to harvest his organs, it was disclosed yesterday.
According to a hospital report seen by French newspaper Le Monde, after failing to resuscitate the 45 year-old Parisian, doctors continued to massage his heart for an hour and a half before surgeons arrived to remove his organs for donation.
As the surgeons began to operate, the man began to breathe and reacted to a pain test. The report says: “After a few weeks chequered with serious complications, the patient is now walking and talking.”
The incident mirrors a similar case that occurred in Texas last year. Some doctors are concerned that too many patients are being prematurely declared ‘dead’ so that their organs can be harvested while still fresh.
The practice of retrieving organs from patients whose hearts have stopped – dubbed “non-heart-beating organ donation” – has only been allowed in France since last year.
In Britain, organs can be harvested from a patient whose heart is still beating but whom two doctors agree is ‘brain-dead’.
Earlier this year, Gordon Brown said he supported the idea of presumed consent for organ donation meaning that the whole population would automatically be registered unless they deliberately opted out.
Critics argue that the change could encourage medics to act hastily in removing the organs of patients who could have a chance of survival.
Dr Margaret Cook, a former consultant haematologist at St John’s Hospital, West Lothian, wrote on the issue last year in The Daily Telegraph: “We must exercise our democratic rights to prevent them from imposing coercive measures.
“How can we be sure, if this proposal became law, that there would not be undue pressure to be less stringent on declaring a potential donor brain-dead? That there would not be more misguided attempts to liberalise the laws on euthanasia?”