N.Y. hospital nearly removes organs from living patient

SYRACUSE, N.Y., July 9 (UPI) -- The near-removal of organs for transplant from a woman who was alive contributed to a $22,000 fine against a Syracuse, N.Y., hospital, state officials said.

The state Health Department found the care at St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center of Colleen S. Burns in 2009 was unacceptable and a federal agency criticized the hospital for improperly investigating the matter.


The mishandling of the matter was part of the reason the state Health Department fined the hospital $22,000 last September -- the largest fine against a Central New York hospital since 2002, The (Syracuse) Post-Standard reported Sunday.

The hospital was fined $6,000 over the Burns case and $16,000 for a 2011 incident in which a patient was left unattended before she fell and injured her head.

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A spokesman said the state could not find a case similar to the Burns matter in a review of 10 years' worth of inspection records.

The Post-Standard said the state review indicated, among other things, the staff didn't do enough testing to ensure the patient was free from drugs, not enough brain scans were performed, and doctors ignored a nurse's observations that Burns wasn't dead and her condition was improving.


The hospital also didn't attempt to thoroughly investigate what went wrong until it was prodded by the state, the newspaper said.

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The investigation found, however, St. Joseph's had acceptable organ procurement policies and procedures.

Neither Burns, admitted to for an overdose of Xanax, Benadryl and a muscle relaxant, nor any of her relatives sued the hospital.

St. Joseph's officials did not discuss specifics of the case because Burns' family asked them not to, hospital spokeswoman Kerri Howell told the Post-Standard.

"St. Joseph's goal is to provide the highest quality of care to every patient, every time," Howell said in an email.

The hospital works with Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network to follow strict policies and procedures for organ donation, she said.

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