Friday, 10 March 2017

Brain keeps Working after Death

Death is the mysterious journey all living organisms must take at the end of their lives. Many people claim to know for sure what happens at the end of that journey. Religious people talk about the certainty of meeting God in heaven, or Satan in hell. The atheo-skeptics are convinced that their death results in complete oblivion forever; the ultimate termination of their existence. However if any person is being honest they will simply have to admit that they don't know for sure. The biological study of dying people is extremely difficult for many practical and ethical reasons. Usually a dying person is either being urgently treated by medical teams in an attempt to save their life, or they are lying peacefully in bed with their grieving family gathered round. As I say here, this calls into question many of the conclusions made during such research projects: Doctors also disagree considerably on the definition of death. When does it occur? Where is the threshold over which a person can be unquestionably categorized as dead? Since the invention of resuscitation technology another very important question is: how far along the path to death do you have to go before it becomes irreversible and you can no longer turn back? The vacillating boundary between life and death has shifted over the years. Before resuscitation you were declared dead simply when your heart stopped. Today it is after resuscitation fails. When the heart stops beating the brain falls instantly into a dormant state. Electrical activity drops very quickly to almost nothing; certainly below that which can be detected on a clinical electroencephalograph. This means the patient is completely unconscious. If the heart cannot be restarted then eventually the brain's shutdown becomes permanent, and that is the current conventional definition of death. The nature of the brain state during those crucial few minutes are the battleground over which different theories regarding near-death experiences is being fought, and in the background links below I address the issue in more detail. This matter has been further complicated by the publication of the results of a new research project carried out by the University of Western Ontario in Canada. The team of nine scientists discovered that in some cases very limited brain activity continued for more than ten minutes after intensive care life support systems had been withdrawn. If this is true then it has profound implications, both scientific and legal. In other words the frontier between the lands of the living and the dead will once again become mobile and hazy. Source:

It's disturbing to think that in my days as a hospital porter I might have transported people to the mortuary whose brains were still ticking over, however tenuously. This information will change the way we view procedures like organ harvests for donation and when it's the right time to "pull the plug" on intensive care patients. Nevertheless, this is a very limited experiment indeed. Only four patients were involved and only one of those showed any post-mortem cerebral activity. A far wider follow-up programme will need to be done. The kind of EEG reading detected was of "delta waves"; what normally happens during deep sleep, therefore this could not have generated any conscious awareness. The patient was still dead on a practical level. I wonder if anybody in secret government programmes is observing this discovery. It's possible they already know far more about it and are finding practical applications similar to the fictional Dr Frankenstein, creating zombie-like slaves, see here for detail: and: Does this reflect on near-death experience studies at all? Skeptic materialists like Dr Susan Blackmore and Dr Olaf Blanke claim that the NDE is caused by residual brain activity during cardiac arrest beyond the sensitivity of a clinical EEG, conflation of memories during recovery, the release of neurochemicals due to cerebral trauma and a disassociation with a person's location. They cite experiments done on rats that show a surge of brain activity after cardiac arrest and just before death; but no similar effect has been observed in humans. This probably makes no difference to the various theories, promotions and dismissals about consciousness and its ability to exist independently from a living human body; but, if this information is confirmed, it does mean we'll have to reassess how we treat people who are on the brink of death. Palliative care will have to be completely overhauled.

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