Patient advocate says St. Joseph's organ harvesting case is 'so wrong on so many levels'

Patient advocate Trish Torrey of Baldwinsville has been writing about healthcare for several years after being misdiagnosed with cancer in 2004.

At, she addresses the problems patients have getting the best possible health and medical care by supplying them with tools and knowledge they need to navigate the healthcare system.

In a recent blog post Torrey weighed in on the story involving a woman who woke up as surgeons at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse were preparing to harvest her organs.

The story, first reported by The Post-Standard, has now been reported all over the country by various news outlets including CBS News and The New York Post.

The incident at St. Joseph's involved Colleen Burns, 41, who opened her eyes as she was being prepared for surgery. State records now indicate doctors ignored a nurses' observations that Burns was responding to stimuli and trying to breathe on her own. The surgery to harvest organs was called off when she opened her eyes in the operating room.

Torrey, who says she still supports organ donation, slams the hospital in her blog post. "It's just another cost of doing business. The worse part is that the (NY State) fines were a result of the fact that the hospital didn't investigate properly afterwards - not that they almost killed a woman to harvest her organs. The investigation wasn't done until the local newspaper asked questions of the state health department. Had the reporter not been on his toes, there would have been no penalty at all, and we would never know it happened."

Torrey ends her comments with this: "...believe me, you will not find me, nor anyone I care about, at that hospital - ever."

The CEO of Saint Joseph's Hospital responded to the 2009 incident in a blog post published this week . Kathryn Ruscitto wrote, "Many things have changed over the last four years since this situation occurred. Our commitment to quality has included work with a nationally recognized Quality Institute to help us redesign our approach to patient care. We've reexamined every aspect of our quality process and added every tool recommended and utilized by the highest performing hospitals. We now provide quality education at every management meeting, and have set up a process to report not just errors - but near misses - so we can identify and fix problems before they occur."

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