‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Is Lazarus Syndrome a Real Thing?

It may seem fantastical, even for “Grey’s Anatomy,” but it actually has happened in real life


(Spoilers for this week’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” inside.)

As if “Grey’s Anatomy” wasn’t already dramatic enough, Thursday’s episode featured an elderly woman who was pronounced dead and came back to life.

In the following scene, we see some doctors refer to this miracle as the Lazarus Syndrome. So, what is this phenomenon and do people really come back from the dead?

In scientific terms the Lazarus Syndrome is “described as delayed return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) after cessation of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).” In layman’s terms it means that attempts at reviving someone from death using CPR have failed only to end up working minutes, or hours later. Thus “spontaneous” revival.  This thing gets its name from the biblical story about Jesus resurrecting a man named Lazarus from the dead.

In the October 6 “Grey’s Anatomy” episode, “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker,” Dr. Stephanie Edwards is amazed at the medical phenomenon she just witnessed and notes that there have been only 38 cases of Lazarus Syndrome reported–and she is correct. According to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 38 cases have been recorded in medical literature.

One of the more recent cases occurred in 2013 in Ohio when Anthony Yahle, a 37-year-old man, “coded” for 45 minutes and was pronounced dead, but when his son arrived at the hospital he noticed a heartbeat on the monitor.