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Consciousness continues to function after clinical death, according to a study

Consciousness continues to function after clinical death, according to a study

September 28, 2023

A couple of days ago the general media spread the news that a group of scientists had discovered that people's consciousness can continue to function up to 3 minutes after dying . That is, in some cases people are aware of what happens around them several seconds after the death occurs, and that this conclusion has been reached through the study of many cases in which resuscitated people are able to remember what happened to them in "their transition to death". However, the results that were really obtained in this study are somewhat different.

The concept of what is the death It is not as simple as it may seem. There is clinical death , in which the heart and lungs stop working, and the real death , in which the injuries produced in the vital organs (and, especially, in the brain) make recovery impossible and trigger the beginning of the degradation of all the cells of the body.

That means that what we often call 'death' is actually a reversible process , and it is for reasons that have nothing to do with mysterious forces acting from beyond, but by factors perfectly approachable by science. That's why a team of researchers from the University of Southhampton set out to find out what happens with our conscience in that space between clinical and actual death, and have concluded that in many cases it can continue to work when the heart has stopped beating .

The article they wrote was made public almost a year ago through the magazine Resuscitation.

What did the study consist of?

The team of researchers studied 2,600 cases of patients from 15 hospitals in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States to investigate different cases of near-death experiences. The results showed that 39% of patients able to undergo structured interviews said to retain a sense of having been conscious during clinical death, despite not being able to remember specific things.

On the other hand, 2% of these patients They claimed to remember specific aspects of what was happening around them during clinical death , or they described experiences of seeing things from a different point of view than the one corresponding to the placement of their body (Out of Body Experiences).

Real or hallucination?

The Out of Body Experiences and the sensations of visual perception in experiences at the limit of death are attributed to hallucinations by the scientific community and, of course, it is difficult to know if people who claim to have maintained some kind of consciousness lie or speak from the deception of having experienced hallucinations.

The fact that many do not remember specific aspects of what happened to them on the verge of death it may mean that this misleading feeling is the product of his recovery after cardiac arrest and that therefore memory has failed to fill an "empty" space of consciousness, but it could also be because they have been aware of many things that happened but the concrete memories have disappeared due to the effect of medication or processes organic related to recovery.

A contrasted case of consciousness after clinical death

But nevertheless, in at least one of the cases it has been possible to verify that their concrete memories correspond with what has happened in reality . In this study there is a validated patient case that keeps the consciousness connected to the outside, since he was tested with sound stimuli after cardiac arrest and therefore it has been possible to compare these objective markers with the information he gave.

This is remarkable, since consciousness is considered to be disconnected from reality before or just after the heart stops, and yet in this case this norm was not met, since it is an example of conscious experience not based on Hallucinations


The results of this study they do not tell us anything about the beyond or about a different plane of existence . That some people remain conscious after clinical death does not mean either that it has been proven that there is life after death or that consciousness is independent of what happens in our body.

It simply tells us that the brain and other vital organs work with different times in experiences on the verge of death, and that it is possible that after cardiac arrest our perception of reality continues to function at least in part. Which, well thought, is not an idea too pleasant.

Bibliographic references:

  • Parnia S, et al. (2014).AWARE-AWAreness during REsuscitation-A prospective study. Resuscitation, 85 (12), pp. 1799-18005.

Oz Talk: Dr. Sam Parnia (September 2023).

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