Hospitalized Man Who Can't Speak Hears Something He Never Should Have

In a horrific scenario, a man overheard his family and doctors discussing organ harvesting -- of his own organs. The man, Jimi Fritze, had suffered a stroke in his early 40s and lay unable to move, speak, or respond in a hospital bed. However, he could hear and see everything -- and understand it. But he had no way of alerting anyone to that. When doctors informed his family that there was no hope for the man, his family filed in to say goodbye. And that's when doctors reportedly began discussing organ donation with them. Imagine lying there listening to that and having no way to tell anyone you could hear it all!

Luckily for Fritze, when another doctor returned from holiday three days later and examined him, the prognosis was less dire. And eventually Fritze awoke from his state and was able to make almost a full recovery.

Although it doesn't seem that Fritze, who lived in Sweden, was ever in danger of being taken off life support -- he wasn't on it -- he says the second doctor gave him a shot of cortisone that brought his brain swelling down, but even then family members had to argue with doctors for more treatment. He fears if the second doctor had never arrived, he would have just laid there not receiving treatment until his body finally gave out.

I have been in the difficult position of having to make a life or death decision for a relative who had had a massive stroke and lay unresponsive. I had absolutely no idea if this relative could hear what I was saying or what the doctors were saying. In fact, doctors were very aware that we didn't know that -- and took me out of the room each time we discussed her. I was explicitly told that perhaps the patient could hear us and we needed to speak quietly and not upset her.

When she came out of the coma, she told me she did not remember anything. That was very good news to me. But it's not like that with everyone. It seems very prudent not to discuss a patient's medical condition -- especially something like organ donation -- in front of that person no matter how hopeless the case might seem.

The man is suing the hospital for discussing organ donation before a patient is brain dead. The real issue here isn't so much organ donation, but at what point a patient is taken off life support and treatment stopped. There's simply no way to know exactly what a patient is thinking or feeling. This is also a good reminder to discuss with family members what you'd like them to do in case of a situation like this, and make sure you have a living will with directions for your relatives and doctors to follow.

Have you ever had to make a life-and-death decision for someone close to you?

Image via Ricardo Diaz/Flickr



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nonmember avatar nikki

I've thought about that so many times. when I was a CNA at a nursing home we had a man in his 30's who was the same and it was sad. He could hear and see but couldn't say a word. This is why I'm so against euthanasia of humans

Mopsy... MopsyTheBunny

FFS, organ donation is such an emotive subject and this is a perfect demonstration of why you need specialist nurses to approach the family under suitable conditions. In private and not in front of the patient, it's fairly obvious.

mothe... motherof2inFL

That is terrifying. Thank God for the second doctor.

lizfnf lizfnf

My Dad suffered a stroke last year. It was caused from an aneurysm bursting. With all the probes and monitors they had in his brain I can say without a doubt that stroke victims are aware of what is happening and being said around them. Which is comforting and terrifying at the same time.

hexxuss hexxuss

Ever make a life or death decision? Yes... my Dad.  He had agent orange induced cancer, which had ravaged most of his body & was heating into his brain after 2 months.  He was dellusional & was oging to pass soon.  The doctor gave my Mum & I the choice to triple his meds, and basically put him in a coma (and help him pass faster & more peacefully), or to let him suffer more for days on end.  I was the one who told the doctors to triple his meds. While he was comatose, a friend of the family started talking about him in past tense... and for the 1st time in my life, I saw tears ceom from my Dad's eyes.  I told them to take it to the hallway if they wanted to talk like that - I was livid, but I had my Dad's back to the end.  I was 19.

Lesia Yates

Unfortuneatly, you can have all t he living wills and POA's you want. the minute you become unresponsive, y our family can do what ever they want and change it. Make a lawyer your POA. someone you don't know, who will explicitly follow your instructions.

Lesia Yates

In virginia you can only approach family about organ donation after brain death has been determined. but it is also a federal law when a patient's gcs becomes 4 or less, legally we have to notify a life procurement agency. Remember, there is a difference between BRAIN DEAD AND BEING IN A COMA

Mopsy... MopsyTheBunny

Article showing how the system works in the UK-it's well worth a read.

squee... squeekers

reminds me a little of Locked-In Syndrome.

nonmember avatar adrien

I can tell you that even if I can hear and see but not move, and there is no hope for me ever being able to do more than just lay there and listen/see, then I would want to be harvested and allowed to move on. What kind of life would I have to look forward to? Of course, this is only after it has been determined I have no chance of recovery.

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