Monday, April 2, 2018

The Many Cases Showing a Person's Mind Can Operate When His Brain Has Shut Down

The dogma that our minds are produced by our brains is a dogma that makes some very definite predictions. One prediction of such a dogma is that human mental activity should completely stop both after someone dies and after someone's brain shuts down. During cardiac arrest, a person will “flatline.” Not only will his heart stop beating, but his brain waves will also stop within 2 to 20 seconds after his heart stops. This means the brain has stopped working. Unless the person is revived through medical resuscitation efforts, he will die.

Experimental results on the cessation of brain electrical activity after heart stoppage are summarized on page 28 of this document.  There we are told that Hossmann and Kleihues in 1973 tested with 200 cats and 21 monkeys, and found that EEG (a measure of the electrical activity in the brain) became "isoelectric" (in other words, a flat line) within 20 seconds following the stop of blood to the heart.  We are also told that a result of the brain flat-lining within 15 seconds was produced in 1991 with 37 dogs (Stertz et. al.), with 143 cats (Hossmann, 1988), and with 10 monkeys (Steen et. al. 1985).  

But contrary to the predictions of the dogma that minds are produced by brains, it is often found that mental activity continues after both the heart and the brain have shut down. Such events are called near-death experiences.

Near-death experiences first came to public light in the 1970's with the publication of Raymond Moody's book Life After Life. Patching together elements from different accounts, Moody described an archetypal typical near-death experience, while noting that most accounts include only some elements in the described archetype. The archetype NDE included elements such as a sensation of floating out of the body, feelings of peace and joy, a life-review that occurs very quickly or in some altered type of time, a passage through a tunnel, an encounter with a being of light, and seeing deceased relatives. 


near death experience

A study on near-death experiences was published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 2001. The study interviewed 344 patients who had a close encounter with death, generally through cardiac arrest. 62 of those reported some kind of near-death experience. 15 reported an out-of-body experience, 19 reported moving through a tunnel, 18 reported observation of a celestial landscape, 20 reported meeting with deceased persons, and 35 reported positive emotions.

The AWARE study was published in 2014 in the journal Resuscitation. It was entitled, “AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study.” The URL can be found here.

The AWARE study name is an acronym for awareness during resuscitation – the type of resuscitation that takes place when a person has a heart attack (cardiac arrest) and almost dies. The study collected data at 15 different hospitals, and was carried on over the course of four years. The study attempted to gather accounts of people's recollections in hospitals after they had very close encounters with death, typically during a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Over 2000 cardiac arrest cases were studied, and there were only 330 who survived to leave the hospital. Of those 330, only 101 met eligibility requirements, agreed to be interviewed, and also agreed to “stage 2” interviews.

So the study ended up with a group of only 101 persons who had experienced a close encounter with death, generally because of a cardiac arrest. Of this pool of 101 persons, 22% answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness?” 13% answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you feel separated from your body?” 13% answered “Yes” to the question, “Were your senses more vivid than usual?” 8% answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice?” 7% answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world?” Only 3% answered “Yes” to the question, “Did you see deceased or religious spirits?”

These results are corroboration of published accounts of what typically happens in a near-death experience, although the numbers are smaller than those reported in the Lancet study. As discussed here, the AWARE study does quote one respondent who gives an account very much like what has been published in previous books on near-death experiences:


I have comeback from the other side of life. ..God sent (me) back,it was not (my) time — (I) had many things to do. ..(I traveled) through a tunnel toward a very strong light, which didn’t dazzle or hurt (my) eyes. ..there were other people in the tunnel whom (I) did not recognize. When (I) emerged (I) described a very beautiful crystal city. .. there was a river that ran through the middle of the city (with) the most crystal clear waters. There were many people, without faces, who were washing in the waters. ..the people were very beautiful. .. there was the most beautiful singing. ..(and I was) moved to tears. (My) next recollection was looking up at a doctor doing chest compressions.

While the AWARE study did not find a very large number of cases of near-death experiences, the study did “hit the jackpot” in regard to one case of a 57-year-old patient who said that he floated out of his body while being revived from his cardiac arrest. The man said that a woman appeared in a high corner of the room, beckoning him to come up to her. He said that despite thinking that was impossible, he found himself up in the high corner of the room, looking down on the medical team trying to revive him. The man described specific details of the revival efforts, including the presence of a bald fat man with a blue hat, a nurse saying, “Dial 444 cardiac arrest,” his blood pressure being taken, a nurse pumping on his chest, a doctor sticking something down his throat, and blood gases and blood sugar levels being taken.

Here is what the AWARE scientific paper said in regard to the accuracy of these recollections:


He accurately described people, sounds, and activities from his resuscitation...His medical records corroborated his accounts and specifically supported his descriptions and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). Based on current AED algorithms, this likely corresponded with up to 3 minutes of conscious awareness during CA [cardiac arrest] and CPR.

So here is a man who had a heart attack, and should have been unconscious during the medical efforts to revive him. Instead he accurately describes the details of what happened. Moreover, he claims that he observed these details while in a position above his body, in the high corner of the medical room. What we have here is what seems like a good-as-gold vintage “out of the body experience,” one with details that have been verified. This is an example of what is called a veridical near-death experience – one with observations that were subsequently verified.

In terms of its credibility and evidential value, the case may rival the famous Pam Reynolds case. At the time of her brain operation, the late Pam Reynolds was a 35-year old who had a large brain aneurysm. She underwent a very complicated operation that involved pumping out her blood and chilling her body temperature to only 60 degrees. Some twenty medical personnel worked on the complex operation.

After the successful operation was over, Reynolds reported having a near-death experience during the operation. She reported floating out of her body, and witnessing her operation. She accurately reported details of some medical equipment that was used to cut her skull open, describing it as a “saw thing...like an electric toothbrush,” with “interchangeable blades” that were stored in “what looked like a socket wrench case.” She reported someone complaining that her veins and arteries were too small. These details were later verified. This was despite the fact that during the operation Reynolds eyes were covered throughout the operation, and her ears were plugged with earplugs delivering noise of 40 decibels and 90 decibels (not to mention that her body was chilled to a level at which consciousness should have been impossible).

Reynolds said that she then encountered a tunnel vortex, saw an incredibly bright light, heard her deceased grandmother calling her, and encountered several of her deceased relatives. Reynolds says she was told by her uncle to go back through the tunnel, and to return to her body. These details were originally reported in the 1998 book Light and Death by Michael Sabom MD. That book includes diagrams of the medical equipment used to cut open Reynold's skull. They match her descriptions very well.

Many people have heard of one or two of these veridical near-death experiences, perhaps the Pam Reynolds case or the often-told story about “Maria's shoe.” But judging from the book The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences, these veridical near-death experiences may not be so rare. Below are some of the cases documented in that book.

Case 2.1: A dying cancer patient remarked to Ricardo Ojeda-Vera (a doctor's assistant) that he had written a beautiful letter to his mother. Ojeda-Vera had written such a letter. The patient “described in detail exactly what he had written,” and accurately recounted that he had worn a green bathrobe while writing the letter. The patient claimed to have seen Ojeda-Vera writing the letter while she had “looked down on him from the ceiling.” Three days later the patient died.

Case 2.2: A patient reported having an out-of-body experience (OBE) during a cardiac arrest, and reported seeing a penny on the top of a cabinet. The cabinet was checked, and a penny was found there.

Case 2.3: In this well-known case, a woman named Maria reported floating out of her body during a cardiac arrest, and that during such an experience she saw a dark blue tennis shoe on a ledge near a window on the third floor. A search found such a shoe in such a location.

Case 2.5: At a hospital a woman who had a cardiac arrest reported having an out-of-body experience during which she floated out of her body, and saw a 12-digit serial number on the top of a six-foot tall respirator. The respirator was later checked and found to have exactly that number on its top.

Case 2.6: A man reported having an out-of-body experience during which he observed a 1985 quarter atop an 8-foot-high cardiac monitor. The top of the monitor was checked, and a 1985 quarter was found on its top.

Case 2.8: A man reported having an out-of-body experience during which he observed medical workers putting defibrillation paddles on him and gel. This matched his actual medical experience during his cardiac resuscitation.

Case 2.11: a woman reported floating out of her body during a cardiac arrest, and that during such an experience she rose up through the hospital's floors, rising up above the roof, where she saw the skyline and a red shoe. A search of the hospital's roof found a red shoe on the roof.

Case 2.12: A man reported that during his cardiac operation he floated out of his body and returned to his home, where he saw a caretaker having sex there with his girlfriend. The caretaker admitted this had happened.

Case 2.13: A woman reported that during her operation she floated out of her body and saw doctors telling her family (incorrectly) that she had died. It was later confirmed that the family had been told that.

Case 2.14: A woman reported having a near-death experience in which she looked down at her body from a corner of a hospital room during her operation. She then reported seeing in a paranormal way two of her grandmothers saying in a cafeteria that they were going to have a cigarette, even though neither smoked. It was confirmed that this improbable thing had happened.

Case 2.15: A patient in the intensive care unit of the hospital had a near-death experience in which he was reportedly able to hear the conversations of relatives elsewhere in the hospital, such as a waiting room conversation about a green toy tractor knocking down a wall of toy bricks. The conversations had occurred far away from his location in the hospital.

Case 3.1: A woman put under general anesthesia during her operation reported details of her operations from an “on the ceiling” perspective, and also correctly reported details of an operation in the adjacent operating room, such as the amputation of a leg and its placement in a yellow bag. She made the report as soon as she woke up, and had no way of knowing such information.

Case 3.7: A man missing his dentures correctly reported a nurse putting them in the drawer of a cart during his cardiac resuscitation, when he should have been completely unconscious.

Case 3.8 A man reported a near-death experience during cardiac arrest. He reported that during the medical efforts to revive him, he saw that a nurse dropped a tray and was scolded about it by a doctor. The account was confirmed.

Case 3.9 A woman had a near-death experience during cardiac arrest. She reported hovering in a corner of the room near the ceiling, and noticed a rose-shaped hair clip and a bottle breaking, details she should have been unaware of. The details were accurate.

Case 3.10 A patient unconscious during his operation reported floating above his body, and accurately described details of his operation.

Case 3.11 This dramatic near-death experience account is told in the youtube.com interview here. A patient was written off for dead, and had no vital signs for "close to 20 minutes." During that time he had "no heart beat, no blood pressure, no respiratory function."  But then in a seemingly miraculous manner the patient's vital signs reappeared, and he eventually "recovered fully." The patient described a near-death experience in which he observed post-it notes in the operating room that he should have been unable to observe because his eyes were taped and he was unconscious. The details were accurate.
 
Case 3.12 A patient whose heart was stopped reported a near-death experience in which he heard some paramedic say something to the effect that the patient would never revive, but a rookie paramedic could use the patient to practice CPR. After undergoing an amazing recovery, the patient told what he had heard to one of the paramedics, who was amazed that the man had apparently heard what the paramedic had said.

Case 3.16 Medical staff tried to save a patient who had undergone cardiac arrest, and they decided to stop the resuscitation efforts. They later found a faint pulse, and resumed the revival efforts. The man survived, and described the medical efforts trying to revive him. He “got all the details right, which was impossible” because he had no pulse during such efforts.

Case 3.18 A man who had a cardiac arrest during an operation reported to his doctor that he had seen a brown leather key fob fall out of the doctor's pocket during the operation. The doctor confirmed that such a thing had happened, at a time when the patient should have been unconscious.

Case 3.29: This case is the famous Pam Reynolds case, which I discussed above. While having her senses blocked and her temperature dramatically lowered during an operation that should have guaranteed unconsciousness, Reynolds reported a near-death that included very specific details of her operation she should have been unaware of.

Case 3.30: A boy who underwent cardiac arrest recalled that during the medical efforts to revive him he "had been up in a corner of the room and had looked down on his body." He correctly recalled several details of the procedure.

Case 3.33: A man who underwent cardiac arrest reported an out-of-body experience in which he felt himself "rising up through the ceiling" and then seeing some hospital area  in which there were mannequins. Above the ICU he was in was a CPR training area in which there were dummies (resembling mannequins) used for CPR training.

There are many other similar accounts in this compelling and well-documented book, which I recommend. The book documents all the original sources of these accounts.

Such accounts present two great difficulties for anyone claiming that these near-death experiences were just hallucinations. The first difficulty is accounting for the similarity of the accounts. Many times in the book we hear accounts of people who said they floated out of their bodies and watched their operations or medical resuscitation attempts from a corner of the hospital room or the ceiling of the room. Why should such a narrative element occur so often in hallucinations, which we would expect to have only random content? The second difficulty is explaining the accurate details in such accounts. To deal with that, the skeptic may tie himself in knots, telling us nonsense such as the suggestion that someone might record perceptions while he in unconscious, and then play them back in his mind when he awakes. No such ability of humans has ever been proven.

Such near-death experiences may or may not prove that you are destined to live forever after you die. But the veridical near-death experiences provide very good evidence that the human mind can continue to operate well after the brain has shut down, as a brain does during cardiac arrest. Such a thing is of decisive importance to the matter being investigated by this site. If a mind can continue to operate well after a brain has shut down, that is decisive evidence against the idea that the mind is merely something produced by a brain. Traditional dogmatic claims that the mind is a product of the brain are refuted by the cases discussed in this post.

If you do a Google search to research how soon the brain shuts down after the heart stops, you will find several articles claiming that the brain continues after the heart stops.  But these stories are  based not on brain wave readings, but on near-death experiences. What's going on is that the writer hears accounts of people experiencing near-death experiences after the heart has stopped, and then reasons, "So, his brain must have still been working." But the evidence is clear: the brain shuts down and brain waves "flat line" within a few seconds after the heart stops. Near-death experiences are cases of the mind continuing after the brain has stopped working.  

A Google search may find various news reports of a single study that found a brain operating a few minutes after someone died. But that case is a fluke that was probably a false reading issue, and the type of brain wave found was only a delta wave (the type that people have during deep sleep).  Near-death experiences don't have a faint dream-like quality. study done by seven scientists found that the memories of near-death experiences are even more vivid than regular life experiences, and that therefore such near-death experiences "cannot be considered as imagined event memories."

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