We’ve seen it in the movies, and it’s a generally understood by the wider non-medical community (that is, normal people like us), that a body’s time of death is called when a heartbeat can’t be detected.
After all, the concept of “flatlining” is the basis for one of the most important (ahem) movies ever made: Flatliners (1990), which is about a group of students playing with death.
The movie is just another one of the many things we have to be grateful for from 90s hearthrob, Keifer Sutherland…
Anyway, you get the point.
A palliative care nurse shares top five regrets of the dying. Post continues.
Fast forward almost 30 years from that medical milestone (yes, we’re ignoring the 2017 ‘reboot’ of the film) and we encounter a team of researchers at New York University, who believe that when a heart stops beating, it may not be the end of the (grey) matter (excuse the pun).
The group of scientists have discovered that the brain can function after the heart stops beating, by examining what happened with patients who died and were brought back to life. The study, looking at cases in Europe and the United States where a cardiac arrest occurred, is the largest study of its kind, according to Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City.
Speaking to website LiveScience, the doctor explained that, “in the vast majority of terminal cases, physicians medically define death based on when the heart no longer beats.”
But his researchers have found that even though the brain starts to die immediately after the heart stops pumping, people can remain partially conscious. Dr Parnia’s team have discovered that patients who have been ‘brought back’ can describe details of some of the things that were happening around them when they were technically dead – which of course, indicates some form of ongoing brain function. And, crucially, their accounts have been verified by the medical staff with them.