Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ERASING DEATH by Sam Parnia

Have you ever known someone to repeat any points made from many different angles, presumably so that you won't forget them? Such is the case with ERASING DEATH by Sam Parnia, whose subtitle is "The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death." Still, many of the points being made are ear-opening. After a lengthy introduction, case studies of near death experiences are presented as illustration for Parnia's main point that death is not an event but a process that usually takes minutes, if not hours. When you have a heart attack or life-threatening trauma, your survival depends not just on whether you're given proper CPR (most CPR isn't effective due to being administered inadequately and/or improperly), but whether the ER you're transported to has the proper equipment, and how soon the staff tends to give up on you. Because when your heart and breathing stops, you are not truly dead yet. Cells live on. This is why organs can be harvested for hours afterward, and Parnia gives many examples of people revived more than half an hour after they were "dead," proving that death is not a fixed point in time. This raises intriguing questions: how many people will be saved in the future, when the technology of chilling and stimulation improves? Also, given that a small minority of "dead" people report out-of-body experiences or seeing loved ones waiting in a tunnel (upon being revived), is this hallucination, evidence of an afterlife, or is it that perception by unconscious people is more than what we believe it is? What is human consciousness, and the soul? Parnia asks big questions, and is involved in a study to determine whether cardiac patients later reporting out-of-body experiences can actually see images above their field of view (pointing upward, since many say they looked down at their own operation.) The author only briefly covers the science of postponing death, which was the focus of characters in my novel, and is instead focused on the gray area between life and death. The only problem here is that the text is padded, being more like an article (albeit fascinating) expanded into book-length format. Still, it is worth wading through, given that the subject has relevance to everyone. James Patrick Cronin reads the audiobook version. 

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