A great man once said, "Politics is inherently stupid." That great man was me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wake Up Dead Man

The case of a man whose heart stopped beating for 1-1/2 hours only to revive just as doctors were preparing to remove his organs for transplants is fuelling ethical debates in France about when a person is dead.

The 45-year-old man suffered a massive heart attack and rescuers used cardiac massage to try and revive him without success before transferring him to a nearby hospital.

Due to a series of complex circumstances, revival efforts continued for longer than usual for a patient whose heart was not responding to treatment, until doctors started preparations to remove organs.

It was at that point that the astonished surgeons noticed the man was beginning to breathe unaided again, his pupils were active, he was giving signs that he could feel pain - and finally, his heart started beating again.

Several weeks later, the man can walk and talk.

Although the story doesn't state it, it's likely the man was kept on a respirator during this time. Irreversible brain damage occurs within 4 and a half minutes without oxygen,  and tissue damage would most certainly result after 1.5 hours. The heart possesses automaticity (if you put a single myocyte in a petri dish, it is possible to watch it contract of its own volition), so this is not as miraculous a story as it first appears. Couple that with the possibility that there may have been some electrical activity in his brain, and this story is downright plausible.

The human body is a wonderful thing.



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