The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Boy Declared Dead, Then Alive: Malpractice or Lazarus Phenomenon?

Sheena Lane and Pink Dorsey have been to hell and back in the truest sense of the expression. They are the parents of 8-year-old Jaylen, who was declared dead by the Mercy Hospital and Medical Center staff after his heart completely stopped before being brought into the hospital.

Hours later, he was alive again, without any additional help from the hospital staff, reports the Chicago Tribune.

9:52 a.m.

Jaylen was brought into the hospital after spending time at home on a feeding tube and ventilator. He had reportedly suffered full cardiac arrest for more than 25 minutes before being brought in for treatment. Doctors made efforts to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful, reports the Tribune.

Over the next few hours, relatives of Jaylen noticed that he would occasionally twitch his eyes, move his body, and flare his nose, despite being declared dead. According to the parents, the boy’s movements were ignored by hospital staff.

2:35 p.m.

A cardiac ultrasound was performed on Jaylen, nearly five hours after he was declared dead. His heart was still beating. He was transported to Comer Children’s Hospital for treatment.

The distraught parents have now filed a lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that the staff ignored signs of life. If he was mistakenly declared dead, and then ignored, the damages from the emotional toll to the family could be staggering, not to mention the damages caused by leaving him untreated for nearly five hours.

The hospital’s defense, at this point, seems to be the declaration of a miracle. Their issued statement refers to “heart function returning spontaneously.” They are likely referring to the unexplained medical occurrence known as the Lazarus Phenomenon, as described by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Only 38 known cases have been reported. The phenomenon is named for the biblical figure whom Jesus resurrected.

Just as a party would not be responsible for an “act of God” that caused death, such as a lightning strike, they also would not be liable for an act of God that resurrected life. While the twitching and flaring nostrils may sound like signs of a hospital’s mistake, these can often happen after death.

Then again, if the reasonable hospital staff would have further investigated these signs sometime in the five hours before he was “resurrected,” even a miracle might not prevent a judgment against the hospital.

Related Resources: