The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study is to be launched by the Human Consciousness Project of the University of Southampton – an international collaboration of scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the human brain, consciousness and clinical death.
“Contrary to popular perception,” Dr Parnia explains, “death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.
“During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”
A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.
Doctors will be studying the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will record and compare perception vs. reality of so-called out of body experiences. No doubt this will upset several flavors of the mysterious ways and bible-thumping crowd.