No one's ever come back to answer this question. Or have they? That's what researchers involved with the AWARE, or AWAreness during REsuscitation study, will try to figure out. AWARE is about to get under way at 25 medical centers in the US and Europe. About 1,500 people who've survived cardiac arrest will be enrolled. In this week's issue, Time magazine interviews Sam Parnia, MD of NY's Weill Cornell Medical Center--one of the investigators in the 3-year trial. Here's how Dr. Parnia describes the study to Time:
"When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases —as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion? So the only way to tell is to have pictures only visible from the ceiling and nowhere else, because they claim they can see everything from the ceiling. So if we then get a series of 200 or 300 people who all were clinically dead, and yet they're able to come back and tell us what we were doing and were able see those pictures, that confirms consciousness really was continuing even though the brain wasn't functioning."
Stay tuned. We know so little about what happens to the mind and our consciousness at death. Three years from now we may have some actual data to discuss.