July 31, 2013
At some point, everyone’s heart will stop. For most, this is when they begin to die. Doctors succeed in very few cases at bringing the clinically dead back to life. However, more patients could be saved if medical professionals put existing knowledge about the treatment of cardiac arrest to better use, argues critical care physician Sam Parnia, 41, who is leading a revival of research in this field at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York.
When Parnia was a student some 20 years ago, a patient he knew well died under his care. It was a key moment for the young doctor, who has since sought to understand and fight the process of death.
SPIEGEL: Dr. Parnia, in your new book on resuscitation science, “Erasing Death,” you state: “We may soon be rescuing people from death’s clutches hours, or even longer, after they have actually died.” That sounds a lot like resurrection. Is this a serious claim?
Parnia: In the past decade we have seen tremendous progress. With today’s medicine, we can bring people back to life up to one, maybe two hours, sometimes even longer, after their heart stopped beating and they have thus died by circulatory failure. In the future, we will likely get better at reversing death. We may have injectable drugs that slow the process of cell death in the brain and other organs. It is possible that in 20 years, we may be able to restore people to life 12 hours or maybe even 24 hours after they have died. You could call that resurrection, if you will. But I still call it resuscitation science.
This article was posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 10:15 am