If your heart stops for an hour-and-a half, are you dead? There's a walking, talking French man who might disagree with you.

The 45-year-old man suffered a massive heart attack and rescuers used cardiac massage to try and revive him without success before transferring him to a nearby hospital.

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He was revived just as doctors were preparing to remove his organs for transplants, now fueling ethical debates in France about when a person is dead.

Due to a series of complex circumstances, revival efforts continued for longer than usual for a patient whose heart was not responding to treatment, until doctors started preparations to remove organs.

It was at that point that the astonished surgeons noticed the man was beginning to breathe on his own, his pupils were active, and he was giving signs that he could feel pain. Finally, his heart started beating again.

Several weeks later, the man can walk and talk.

"This situation was a striking illustration of the questions that remain in the field of re-animation ... and what criteria can be used to determine that a re-animation has failed," said a report on the case, published online by an ethics committee.

The case has stirred debate among medical professionals and daily newspaper Le Monde on Tuesday dedicated a full page to the subject under the headline: "The Organ Donor Wasn't Dead."

"What is under consideration here is the status of a person, whether they are a patient who can be re-animated or a potential (organ) donor," said the ethics committee report.

The hospital where the man was treated is one of only nine in France that are allowed to perform organ transplants on patients in cardiac arrest, in very specific conditions, under a pilot program launched in 2007. Elsewhere, organ transplants are possible on other categories of patients under older rules.

The program, which was approved by the French agency in charge of bio-ethics, aims to help reduce the number of people waiting for a transplant by making it possible to take organs from new categories of patients.

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