I have seen claims that one shouldn't be an organ donor because you may be declared dead by mistake and have organs harvested.

For instance, this Life Site article gives a few anecdotal examples:

SYRACUSE, NY, July 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A woman who was pronounced brain dead by doctors unexpectedly woke up just as her organs were about to be removed for transplant.


In 2008, a 45-year-old Frenchman revived on the operating table as doctors prepared to “harvest” his organs for donation, following cardiac arrest. In the subsequent investigation by the hospital’s ethics committee, a number of doctors admitted that such cases, while rare, were well known to them.

That same year, a “brain dead” 21-year-old American, Zack Dunlap, was about to have his organs harvested when his two sisters, both nurses, decided to test the hospital’s theory that his brain was no longer functioning. Family members poked his feet with a knife and dug their fingernails under his nails, provoking strong reactions by Dunlap and proving he was conscious. He recovered completely. He later related that he was conscious and aware as doctors discussed harvesting his organs in his presence.

This Prolife Health Care Alliance article flat out recommends that one should not be an organ donor:

Should I refuse to be an organ donor?

Yes [...]

However, I notice that many of the examples seem... suspect to me. In most cases, it seems that there was no actual danger of organs being harvested because the doctors had not reached the point where they would allow organ harvesting to begin, nor had the final prior-to-organ-harvesting safety tests been performed. For example, at least one example in the above link confuses 'clinical death' with 'can not be saved', despite the fact that hospitals regularly bring people back from the (clinically) dead, and thus no hospital would be considering having organs harvested due to a patent 'merely' being clinically dead.

Is there at least one example of a situation where harvesting of organs was imminent, with no final tests or safety precautions which would have had a likely chance of detecting life prior to harvesting, in which the patient was found to have been alive?


1 Answer 1


This is a news article about the first story in your first reference: St. Joe's "dead" patient awoke as docs prepared to remove organs

It seems to fit the criteria you'e looking for, i.e.:

None of those signs stopped the organ-harvesting process. It wasn't until Burns was wheeled into the OR on Oct. 20, 2009, opened her eyes and looked at the lights above her that doctors called it off.

  • I don't think it does prove sufficently. There are extensive tests done prior to organ removal. I'm wondering specifically about those tests, and rather there was a realistic risk of doctors not detecting from those tests. In addition the article I linked does not provide proof, it is hearsay at best without a primary source.
    – dsollen
    Nov 16, 2014 at 17:25
  • Did you read scribd.com/doc/148583905/… ?
    – ChrisW
    Nov 16, 2014 at 17:33

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