People can still be conscious after they have ‘died’, researcher says

Rob Waugh

People who have been declared dead can sometimes remember events after ‘death’ – and there’s evidence to prove it.

Dr Sam Parnia of the University of Southampton has conducted large studies in the subject – and said that some patients have even heard their own death being declared.

Dr Parnia told Live Science: ‘They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working and they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.’

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It may be to do with the way we define death, which is based on when the heart no longer beats, driving blood to the brain.

Dr Parnia says, ‘Technically, that’s how you get the time of death – it’s all based on the moment when the heart stops.

‘Once that happens, blood no longer circulates to the brain, which means brain function halts almost instantaneously.
In an earlier study, Dr Parnia’s team at the University of Southampton, studied 2,060 patients who had been through cardiac arrest, and then come back.

Around half of the patients recalled something from their time in cardiac arrest – but many of these experiences are frightening, or involved memories of real events (from a time when the person is supposedly dead).

Several patients remembered real events from the operating theatre after they had ‘died’, the University of Southampton researchers said.

Dr Sam Parnia said that in one case, researchers were able to verify that a patient had recalled real events after their heart had stopped.

Dr Parnia said: ‘This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating.