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Carina Melchior Awakes Friday Success Story

Every Friday on the Melissa Caulk blog I am sharing a success story about a person who woke up out of coma after being pronounced “brain-dead” or “hopeless” by doctors.

Carina Melchior is a young woman, 19 years old who was in a car accident in Belgium. She was taken to Aarhus University Hospital and given no hope of recovery.

Her parents had consented to organ donation, but after taking her off the ventilator she did not expire. To the shock and dismay of her family and the hospital she wok up from her coma, moved her legs and opened her eyes.

Carina’s father told Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet: “Those bandits in white coats gave up too quickly because they wanted an organ donor”.

To their credit, Aarhus University Hospital has admitted their mistake. They admitted that the suggestion of organ donation should not have been given, as there were no clear signs that brain death would occur.

“We are overjoyed that the young woman survived and that she is moving on after the accident,” Claus Thomsen, the hospital’s chief medical officer, wrote in a statement. “But we made a mistake and made the family believe that their daughter and sister would die.”

Brain Death Debate

Carina Melchior’s family made a documentary about her life, titled The Girl Who Refused to Die. The documentary, sparked a debate in Denmark about when it is acceptable for doctors to suggest organ donation.

A diagnosis of death by neurological criteria is theory, not scientific fact. (Dr. Paul Byrnes)

Irreversibility of neurological function is a prognosis, not a medically observable fact. There is also evidence of poor compliance with accepted guidelines of brain death. Wang M.Y. et al. Neurosurgery. 2002, Sept; 51(3): 751-5.D.

“The 1968 Harvard Ad Hoc Committee for Irreversible Coma published criteria that held that any organ that no longer functions, or has the possibility of functioning again, is, for all practical purposes, if not in reality, dead. They then described the criteria for the diagnosis of irreversible coma and its concomitantly permanent nonfunctioning brain. They equated the state of coma with brain death and then declared the patient brain-dead. They implied that brain death should be regarded as death, because it inevitably leads to death and that the person in irreversible coma is, for all practical purposes, if not in reality, dead. Untold semantic confusion has followed this oxymoronic notion.”  Alan Shewmon, “Recovery from Brain Death. A Neurologist’s Apologia.” Linacre Quarterly, Feb. 1997, 30-96

The Questions

After reading about Carina Melchior and her hopeless diagnosis, the question remains…wasn’t it pronounced too quickly? The hospital apologized and Carina is alive and riding her horse. Thank God, she woke up like Zak Dunlap before their organs were taken and they died. How many do not have this opportunity but would if given time?

  • What if that was you loved one?
  • Wouldn’t you want to give them time for the brain swelling to go down?
  • Would you want the doctors to “give up” on you or your loved one too quickly?
  • Would you want to be alive on the operating room table, with a paralyzing drug given to you to stop you from moving and disturbing the transplant surgeons and nurses?  
Comments appreciated.