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Woman awakens after she's declared dead

By Xu Chi (Shanghai Daily)

08:14, August 03, 2012

A FIRST-AID doctor has been suspended for mistakenly declaring an 85-year-old woman dead after she cut her wrist in a suicide attempt but came to during a forensic check.

The women gradually opened her eyes and gently moved her shaking hands when a forensic doctor was photographing her body, about 30 minutes after the first-aid doctor declared her dead and police cordoned off the apartment on Wednesday, her relatives said.

The woman is now stable after her shocked relatives and neighbors called the medical emergency hotline again and rushed her to a hospital.

Pudong Medical Emergency Center officials apologized to the family yesterday and said the incident was caused by the first-aid doctor's "improper rescue efforts." The doctor has been suspended, said Tang Zhihong, vice director of the center.

Tang said the center got the first call for help about 9:30am on Wednesday from the woman's daughter who found her mother lying in blood in an apartment on Jinkou Road in Pudong.

Tang said the first-aid doctor checked the woman's vital signs and declared her dead after reading results from an electrocardiogram machine. Police later arrived and asked the forensic doctor to check the body, when the woman awoke.

"Although first-aid doctors are all trained and required to give first-aid treatments to patients even when the machine shows they are dead, the doctor didn't make proper rescue efforts and left," said Tang.

Regulations require doctors to carry out rescue efforts for at least 30 minutes, and then stop only when the patient's family asks them to stop, Tang said.

The woman's daughter, surnamed Bian, said she begged the doctor to give one more try to save her mother, but he didn't act after a straight line was shown on the machine.

"My mother was not dead. Why did the doctor not rescue her but declare her dead?" asked Bian.

An official surnamed Dong with the Shanghai Medical Emergency Center told Shanghai Daily that pressure, a lack of responsibility and rather low pay may have driven the doctor to make such a mistake.

"If he could have waited for another five minutes to try more rescue efforts instead of totally relying on the machine, he could have saved the woman himself," said Dong.

Dong said the number of local first-aid doctors, who save lives under heavy physical and mental pressure, is shrinking sharply.

In summer, a first-aid doctor has to take about 10 trips a day in ambulances due to a shortage of doctors.

They usually check and rescue patients alone but don't get paid as much as a doctor in a hospital, said Dong.

"More than 50 first-aid doctors have quit their jobs in the emergency center this year as they don't want to work under heavy pressure," Dong said.

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