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Litigation Funding Blog

Supposedly brain dead woman wakes up prior to organ harvest procedure

September 14, 2013

Imagine waking up just as surgeons were preparing to harvest your organs for donation. That is what happened to 41-year-old Colleen Burns of Syracuse, New York.

In 2009, Burns overdosed on a near fatal mixture of drugs. On arrival in the emergency ward of St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre, she was suffering from violent seizures. The ER staff called for an emergency EEG and, over a period of several hours, determined that she had a poor prognosis for survival. The family was asked if they wished to consider withdrawing life support. Given the likelihood that their daughter would not survive her overdose, they agreed to donate her organs.

Just as the operation was beginning, Burns awoke on the table as several surgeons prepared to excise various vital organs. The symptoms of a drug overdose may mimic those of brain damage. But, as was found when a close inspection was made of hospital records, the staff missed clear signs that Burns had not suffered brain damage. A nurse had scraped her toes to test for reflexes; Burns’ toes responded immediately by curling. Patients with irreversible brain damage are not capable of responding to such stimuli.

Further evidence indicated hospital staff also did not test the woman to determine if all the drugs she had ingested had passed out of her system prior to any kind of an operation.
The hospital was fined $6,000 and ordered to conduct an in-depth review of its quality assurance program, which, in light of this case, appeared to be substantially less than up to par. They were also ordered to hire a consulting neurologist to educate staff on how to properly diagnose brain death.

The victim chose not to do anything about the incident, due to severe depression. She committed suicide in 2011. No one in the family sued the hospital. If they had, they might have been interested to know that they did not have to pay for all of their medical bills and other expenses on their own, while waiting for a trial or settlement. They would have been qualified to apply for litigation funding.

Pre-settlement funding is an emergency cash advance, or lawsuit loan, offered to a qualified plaintiff. It assists them in paying off all their financial obligations and allows them to wait for justice without having to deal with greedy insurance companies wanting them to settle quickly for a ridiculously low amount of money.

Litigation Funding