What if death isn't the end? A new study, conducted by researchers from New York's Stony Brook University of Medicine, has drawn the conclusion that, contrary to popular belief, human beings are often still conscious for a short period after their body shuts down. This allows them to observe what's happening in the world around them, and even realize that they've died.
The research team spoke with people who had suffered cardiac arrest and survived from Europe and the US. In the medical world, death is determined by lack of a heartbeat—when the heart stops beating, blood stops being pumped to the brain, and everything begins to shut down.
However, the shut down process isn't instantaneous—it can take hours. For a significant period of time, people who are being declared dead may still be conscious and aware of their surroundings. According to Dr. Sam Parnia, who led the study:
"They'll describe watching doctors and nurses working, they'll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them. It [the time a patient is declared dead] is all based on the moment when the heart stops. Technically speaking, that's how you get the time of death."
Though the study's original purpose was to "improve treatment of cardiac arrests and prevent brain injuries during resuscitation," this discovery is certainly a fascinating surprise. Dr. Parnia went on:
"At the same time, we also study the human mind and consciousness in the context of death, to understand whether consciousness becomes annihilated or whether it continues after you've died for some period of time — and how that relates to what's happening inside the brain in real time."
Twitter was morbidly fascinated by the prospect of feeling yourself die...
Perhaps death should just be avoided altogether.
It seems we just keep going for a while after death.
Further studies will most likely have to confirm the Stony Brook researchers' conclusions, but, if they're right, we'll likely never look at death the same way again.