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Resurrection man: Doctor pushes advances in resuscitation to bring people back to life

Published: Tuesday, April 9 2013 2:24 p.m. MDT

Sam Parnia, head of intensive care at the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York, is working to convince the medical establishment that if death is managed properly, it's possible to bring people back to life hours after current techniques would have failed.

Haraz N. Ghanbari, Associated Press

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Sam Parnia, head of intensive care at the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York, is working to convince the medical establishment that if death is managed properly, it's possible to bring people back to life hours after current techniques would have failed.

"It is my belief that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more," Parnia told The Guardian's Tim Adams. "That is, every heart attack victim should no longer die. I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, 'My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened.' But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed. If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases. And the same with infections, pneumonia or whatever. People who don't respond to antibiotics in time, we could keep them there for a while longer [after they had died] until they did respond."

Parnia, who has written a book titled, "The Lazarus Effect," believes advances in resuscitation like cooling the body to preserve brain cells and keeping the level of oxygen in the blood up can give doctors more time to fix the underlying problem. If doctors move away from CPR and toward these types of resuscitation steps, he said they can double survival rates and prevent people from coming back with brain damage.

Although Parnia willingly uses the word "soul" to describe the individual self of the person needing to be resuscitated, he said he does not have a religious way into either his science or his ongoing research into near-death experiences, or what he calls, "actual death experiences."

"I don't have any religious way into this," Parnia said. "But what I do know is that every area of inquiry that used to be tackled by religion or philosophy is now tackled and explained by science. One of the last things to be looked at in this way is the question of what happens when we die. This science of resuscitation allows us to look at that for the first time."

According to Parnia, the longest dead time he knows of happened in Japan, where a girl had been dead for more than three hours, was resuscitated for six hours and is now "perfectly fine."

Read more about Parnia and resuscitation on The Guardian.

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