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August 02, 2013

Absurdly Interesting Article on the Potential for Medical Resurrection

Via Hot Air, a fascinating glimpse into an area of medicine I didn't even know was an area of medicine.

It is freaky to think of death, or life, for that matter, as anything other than a binary proposition. You are either dead or you are alive. There is no "mostly dead." That's why that worked as a joke in The Princess Bride.

But in reality there actually are stages of death; the average person isn't aware of them. But doctors specializing in "resuscitation medicine" are.

I've heard of "clinically dead" and "medically dead" but never really read about why one was "mostly dead" and the other was all the way dead.

I was surprised to learn resuscitation is now a medical specialty, and it's very strange to hear someone discussing what is, essentially "light to moderate death," and talking about curing this light-to-moderate death.

Speaking of the need to cool the body down to around 32 degrees C, which protects the brain (a cold brain requires less oxygen, even in death) and prevents cell breakdown, this Doctor Parnia says:

We use pads that get attached to the thighs and the upper body. In a matter of hours, the cooling machine brings the body temperature down to the desired level. But you could also do this at home, if you found someone there in cardiac arrest. Call an ambulance, administer CPR and place a bag of frozen peas or other frozen vegetables on the patient. It helps to protect the brain.

SPIEGEL: What do you do that is not regularly done?

Parnia: Among other things, we check continuously how much blood and oxygen gets to the brain. If we have at least 80 percent of normal levels, the person tends to do better. If his condition doesn't improve, we follow steps that includes the use of an automatic machine to give compressions and breathing and eventually put him on ECMO.

When he says "if his condition doesn't improve" he means the condition of death.

Freaky right?

Rightly used, reanimation could play a major role in the therapy for many life threatening conditions and thousands more will be saved.

...

SPIEGEL: Is this truly a realistic scenario?

Parnia: Of course we can't rescue everybody, and many people with heart attacks have other major problems. But I will say that if all the latest medical technologies and training had been implemented, which clearly hasn't been done, then in principle the only people who should die and stay dead are those that have an underlying condition that is untreatable. A heart attack is treatable. Blood loss as well. A terminal cancer isn't, neither are many infections with multiresistant pathogens. In these cases, even if we'd restart the heart, it would stop again and again.

SPIEGEL: Doesn't the idea of "bringing people back" imply that they weren't really dead in the first place?

Parnia: I think the state they are in corresponds to the cultural concept we all have of death. We encounter it in movies and books all the time. That is my basic message: The death we commonly perceive today in 2013 is a death that can be reversed.

Full brain death -- after the brain cells have begun to degenerate -- cannot be reversed. But his very strange point is that most forms of death are treatable.

Heart attacks, wounds: These things can be repaired while the patient is "dead" and then the heart may be re-started. As is convenient for the doctor, as odd as that sounds.

He noted the actual point of irreversible death is not well known. But it is known that there is something of a "gray area," as he calls it -- bodily processes stopped, but cells not yet degenerating, brain not deprived of oxygen long enough to be permanently damaged. A corpse that would often get shipped to the mortuary... and yet it could still be "reanimated," as he says.

Anyway, give it a read.


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posted by Ace at 12:45 PM

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