Dr. Sam Parnia, M.D. has a very unique medical specialty- resurrection. Dr. Parnia has made recent claims that he can bring patients, who have died hours before, back to life. How is this possible? Can he really bring back the “clinically dead?” What ethical and religious issues does this pose and, more importantly, would you want him to?
Parnia’s book, “The Lazarus Effect,” posits that, should someone die of reversible causes, such as a heart attack or infection, that medical interventions can be performed, post mortem, that will reverse the condition and affectively bring that person back to life. In writing this book, Parnia hoped to expand the medical community’s understanding of death and essentially convince other doctors that his methods can save the lives of up to 40,000 Americans a year without a high cost. The procedures that Parnia posits are not acceptable practices in the medical community, but Parnia is trying to change that with his new book.
Dr. Sam Parnia works at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York as the head of intensive care and was originally trained in the United Kingdom. Recently, he began to question the age-old question: what happens when the body dies? What happens to the soul, the memories…the character of that person? Through his research, he has extrapolated that, in some cases where the cause of death can be reversed, the individual can be resurrected by properly managing their death, allowing them to expire, reversing the condition that resulted in their death and then resuscitating them before brain death occurs.
The big question is how? Parnia speculates that this process is possible by properly and quickly cooling the patient’s body and monitoring oxygen levels in the brain to preserve brain cells and avoid brain damage. He theorizes that the traditional Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) that is typically done when the heart stops, is only done for a short period of time, after which point doctors stop, assuming brain death. However, Parnia asserts that by advancing care and using a process called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, by which the blood is removed from the body, re-oxygenated and reinserted into the body, doctors can maintain oxygenation in the blood and therefore “buy time” to correct the problem and then restart the heart. In this manner patients can be “clinically dead” for hours, cured and brought back to life so long as the level of oxygen in the brain stays above 45%
When it comes to ethics, Parnia states that he has no religious quandaries about what he is theorizing. He states that he has no religious quandaries about his theories because no one truly knows what happens when we die. He believes that the science of resurrection will allow us to get closer to the answer to the question “What happens when we die?” And more importantly, “Can we bring someone back from the dead?” In addition, this theory begs the question of how we as human beings view mortality, especially considering Parnia is speculating that the human body is getting closer to being “immortal.”
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