Colleen Burns had been taken to St Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse after taking a drug overdose.
She was thought to have passed away, a victim of ‘cardiac death’, and so her family agreed to turn off the 41-year-old’s life support machine and donate her organs.
It was not until she was wheeled into the operating theatre and opened her eyes in response to the lights that doctors called off the procedure.
Lucille Kuss, Burns’ mother, said that the doctors never explained what went wrong.
“They were just kind of shocked themselves,” she said. “It came as a surprise to them as well.”
Burns, a mother of three, was discharged from the hospital a fortnight after the operation, but committed suicide less than two years later.
The family did not sue but the hospital was fined $6,000 (Rs 3.61 lakh) by the state health department in September .
“These sorts of things do happen,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. “It’s pretty disturbing.”