The Express is reporting on what is being called a groundbreaking study of more than 2,000 cardiac arrest survivors conducted by British researchers at the University of Southampton which found that people continue to experience awareness for up to three minutes even after they have been declared dead. The study also found convincing evidence of out-of-body experiences in those who experienced death.
Until now, it has always been believed that the brain stopped all activity within 30 seconds of the cessation of the heart, thus ending all awareness.
As lead researcher Dr. Sam Parnia explains: "Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning. If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as 'cardiac arrest'; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’."
The research interviewed 2,060 patients from Australia, the U.S. and the UK who survived cardiac arrest and found that 40 percent said they had some form of awareness even after being pronounced clinically dead.
"This suggests more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall,” Dr. Parnia said.
Of those patients who experienced awareness, two percent described it as an out-of-body experience which allowed them to hear and see what was going on around them after death.
The most significant finding was that of a 57-year old man who is perhaps the first confirmed out-of-body experience in a patient. He was able to recall with startling accuracy what was going on around him even after he had been pronounced dead.
"This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with 'real' events when the heart isn't beating,” Dr. Parnia said.
"In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn't resume again until the heart has been restarted.”
He added: “Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events."
Scientists continue to study the phenomenon of "near death experiences" - which have been reported from ancient times to the present - with no real consensus of opinion as to the biological reasons for it. Some believe these experiences could be supernatural events; others say they are the result of hallucinations or drugs.