Bioethics News

Consciousness after clinical death. The biggest ever scientific study published

Southampton University scientists have found evidence that awareness continue for at least several minutes after clinical death which was previously thought impossible.

A recent article in British newspaper The Daily Mail (1) featured an interview with Dr. Sam Parnia, with the lead “Consciousness may continue even after death, scientists now believe”. Sam Parnia is head of a multidisciplinary team at Southampton University (United Kingdom) who published a study in the Oficial Journal of European Resuscitation Council, with the title “AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study” (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.09.004) (3) which included more than 2,000 persons who suffered a cardiac arrest and successfully responded to resuscitation treatment, in 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States and Austria. This is the largest study of its kind to date, using rigorous methodology, in order to exclude all those cases that could be based on individual impressions that are worthy, but which hold no scientific interest.

Jerry Nolan, Editor-in-Chief at Reuscitation Journal, who did not participate in the study but is considered an authority on the subject, said of the research, “Dr. Parnia and his colleagues are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die.” (2)

Consciousness after clinical death: “Whether it fades away afterwards, we do not know”

The results revealed that 40% of those who survived a cardiac arrest were aware during the time that they were clinically dead and before their hearts were restarted. Dr. Parnia, in the interview stated: “The evidence thus far suggests that in the first few minutes after death, consciousness is not annihilated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.