healthHealth and Medicine

A Corpse Sent For An Autopsy Turned Out To Have A Pulse


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Close call. Arpatsara/Shutterstock

There’s very little more nightmarish a thought than still being alive while medical professionals cut you open in the mistaken belief that you’re actually dead. This scenario, rather bizarrely, has almost played out at least twice in the last few months, with the latest incident taking place in India.

News 18 reports that a man of the name of Himanshu Bharadwaj, a resident of the Professor’s Colony locality within Chhindwara, had suffered a severe injury during a traffic accident. Brought to a private hospital in Nagpur, he was declared brain-dead, which means he was experiencing a complete loss of brain function and breathing capabilities – a condition that quickly becomes irreversible.


His body was brought to Chhindwara District Hospital, where he was officially pronounced clinically dead, which is, roughly speaking, when no signs of breathing or blood circulation can be detected. His apparent corpse was then sent for an autopsy. Fortunately, the pathologist that conducted said autopsy detected a pulse, and he was rushed back into hospital and treatment began.

At the time of writing, it appears he’s currently back in Nagpur for treatment, but he’s still brain-dead. Details are somewhat unclear, but it appears that both his circulation and respiratory organs are operating intermittently, which is where the confusion over his apparent clinical death may have arisen.

Either way, the declaration of death was certainly premature, and it’s caused understandable consternation among those living in the area.

As was mentioned earlier, this isn’t the only incident of its kind recently. Back in January, it was reported that, in a Spanish prison, a patient was declared dead by three separate doctors before being placed in a morgue. He was found in his cell, unresponsive, and after a prompt examination, he was assumed to be bereft of life.


As noted by El Espanol at the time – and translated by ScienceAlert – the prisoner had been placed in cold storage, and his skin was already marked up with scalpel guidelines, lines that denote where the doctors are doing to make incisions during the autopsy. The only reason that he survived such an inadvertent torture was that he was heard snoring through the body bag he was wrapped up in.

It’s been reported that in the Spanish case, the patient may have been suffering from a variety of conditions – including catalepsy – that gave him the physical characteristics of being dead, albeit temporarily and on a surficial level, although again, details are fuzzy. As for the Indian case, either the low survivability expectations of a brain-dead patient overshadowed proper checks, or his intermittent pulse generated confusion.

Either way, it's all rather grim.


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