Wow. Thanks for posting this account, Jason. Apart from all the other amazing things mentioned in the video including the NDE itself, I'd just add the following:1. I'll just begin with some brief background info. For there to be no heartbeat means there's no blood pressure. If there's no blood pressure, there's no blood pumping around your body including your brain. Blood carries oxygen and other important nutrients such as glucose. If there's no blood to your brain, then it's not getting any oxygen or glucose (although it can use ketone bodies if there's no glucose but for reasons I won't get into that's not really relevant here). So generally your brain needs tons of oxygen. In fact, the brain alone uses approximately 20% of the oxygen we breathe. If your brain isn't getting oxygen, many important brain cells will start dying. And most (though not all) neurons can't be replaced once they're lost. Adults generally don't get new neurons. If we could generate new neurons, then we could better treat a host of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's). Anyway, severe brain damage can result in under a few minutes if there's not enough let alone no oxygen supply to your brain.2. Now, the patient was obviously unconscious due to anesthesia. Not to mention pronounced dead! But even on the exceptionally unlikely scenario that the patient "somehow" regained consciousness or at least partial consciousness and thereby observed everything he observed in the operating room which some skeptics might try to point out to undermine the NDE, a person generally loses consciousness in only a few seconds (say 10-20 seconds maximum) if their brain is deprived of oxygen. For the patient's heart to have stopped and stopped pumping blood for 20-25 minutes as stated by the doctor and to have somehow regained consciousness utterly strains credulity. This consciousness argument would, I think, be the closest possibility to explaining away the NDE. But it falls short by a long shot. Perhaps someone else knows better. But I, at least, can't think of anything else that would allow us to explain away the NDE on current medical scientific grounds.3. It would be extremely unlikely for a patient in this condition to have suffered no "neurological deficit" as the doctor put it. In fact I would say they should be in a PVS at least. However since the doctor reports there was indeed no "neurological deficit," well, quite apart from the NDE, this fact in and of itself is a "miracle."4. The doctor mentioned he wasn't the only cardiothoracic surgeon with such an account. He said other surgeons likewise told similar stories. If these accounts are true, then I don't see why they can't be taken into account in certain bioethical debates.
We call these experiences 'NEAR' Death Experiences. Is it correct to say that this person experienced death and then came back to life? Or were they near death but not actually dead? It raises questions about defining death from a physiological perspective. Also one of the fascinating things about all the reports of NDE's I have read is that those who 'come back' so to speak did so within a relatively short period of time (i.e. no more than 20-30 minutes at most, perhaps a few a little longer - say an 1 hour?). At what point is it truly incredible that a person who hovers near death or perhaps we say is dead cannot 'come back'? Should we expect someone to be in a similar state (i.e. no vital signs) as this person was for say 5 or 6 hours or even a day or 2 and come back? What makes a person able to come back after 25-30 minutes but not 25-30 hours? IOW, is there still 'life' in such a person within a certain time range in which all other vital functions have appeared to cease? I have not seen these sorts of questions addressed in the NDE literature I have read so far.
MSC,The definition of death is a disputed issue. What's more significant in this context is how a person's physical condition relates to the details of a particular near-death experience, regardless of whether we consider the person to have been dead. For example, skeptics often argue that a person still had, or may have had, some low level of brain activity, even a level so low that none of the relevant medical equipment picked it up. But if the near-death experience involved heightened senses where low brain activity should have lowered the quality of those senses, for instance, then the skeptic's argument is inadequate even if we grant his claim about brain activity. The question wouldn't be whether there was any brain activity, but rather whether there was enough to explain what occurred.
Nightline just did an NDE special:http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/beyondbelief/washington-boy-spoke-god-flesh-eating-bacteria-threatened/story?id=14212228It is interesting because there is an atheist "minister" who actually went down the tunnel, saw the light, and even a deceased relative, but still remains an atheist.
Thx for posting this, Jason. Pretty powerful stuff.
Woman blind from birth recounts an NDE in which she can see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbtoX3Q5OI
MSC said:Is it correct to say that this person experienced death and then came back to life? Or were they near death but not actually dead? It raises questions about defining death from a physiological perspective.Please read (if you haven't already) what I wrote above in my first comment. If it's true his heart had stopped beating for 20-25 mins as the doctor reported, then it stretches the imagination to think he would be still somehow be alive. Not to mention failed to suffer any "neurological deficit" when he came back. At least, insofar as I understand, that's what modern medical science can tell us. Perhaps other medical scientists or doctors can weigh in.
Jason made an excellent point too.
Jason & Patrick,I appreciate your answers, but what about a person who has ceased to exhibit vital signs for a significant period of time? Why do we not see people coming back after say 7-8 hours let alone 24 hours or more? Setting aside the issue of NDE's for a moment, would we call people coming back after only 20-30 minutes a supernatural (i.e. miraculous) event seeing this is quite a frequent occurrence? If somebody came back after 12 hours let alone 4 days (think Lazarus here) no doubt that would stun the medical community and the rest of the world.I don't know how this bears on the question of interpreting NDE's except to say is there a difference between what people experience if "near" death as opposed to actually irreversibly being dead? IOW, I am positing the idea that the seeming loss of vital functions for 25-30 minutes and then returning to full function is so common that I am uncertain that we can say such a person is dead. There may be natural/ physiological reasons why such persons return to full function that are presently inexplicable. It is almost as though there is a transitional stage between life and death and the NDE's occur during this transitional stage. If that is true, I don't what it means for interpreting NDE's except to say that such people have not actually come back from the dead.
As a clarifying point, I am not seeking to argue against the veridical nature of NDE's. I believe the evidence of NDE's suggests a brain/soul distinction. I am just thinking about the implications of interpreting NDE's in light of whether or not a person has actually experienced death before being restored to normal earthly life.
MSC,Saying they aren't "supernatural" misses the point. The point being that their heart and brain are inactive and yet they have consciousness and may have knowledge of events they shouldn't have knowledge of if materialistic naturalism is true.
MSC,I've discussed the concept of a transitional phase before. It's something Michael Sabom has suggested, and he cites passages like Genesis 35:18 for support. I don't see any Biblical contradiction of the concept, but I also see no way to define the details of its parameters if it exists. We don't know that the location of the soul, so to speak, is always determined by a particular physical condition. God would know that a person is going to recover from a certain physical state, while another person won't, whereas we don't have that information. And He could allow one person to experience a foretaste of the afterlife, whereas another person only experiences a dream-like state or some sort of transitional phase.
Hi MSC,Thanks for your reply too.I'll try to address your question as best I can:Setting aside the issue of NDE's for a moment, would we call people coming back after only 20-30 minutes a supernatural (i.e. miraculous) event seeing this is quite a frequent occurrence? . . . I am positing the idea that the seeming loss of vital functions for 25-30 minutes and then returning to full function is so common that I am uncertain that we can say such a person is dead. There may be natural/ physiological reasons why such persons return to full function that are presently inexplicable. It is almost as though there is a transitional stage between life and death and the NDE's occur during this transitional stage.1. As far as NDEs go, others like Jason can correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I understand I think a lot of people would agree NDEs occur in some sort of a "transitional stage" between life and death. I don't know if that'd put it that way. But I mean we're not necessarily saying a person has to be fully dead to experience an NDE. After all, it is a near death experience, not a death experience.2. Whether or not an event is "miraculous" shouldn't be based on whether it's frequent or infrequent, I don't think.If there's only a single but true and verifiable case in which a person who was genuinely dead for 20-30 mins yet returned from death back to life, then that's all that's necessary to establish a miracle occurred in this case. If no one in all of history had ever risen from the dead but Jesus only, and it was verified, then that alone would be enough to establish the miracle of bodily resurrection is possible.Of course, something could still be miraculous even if it's frequent. Say if 100 people who were definitely dead rose from the dead on a different day, one after the other, for 100 consecutive days. Each instance would still be a miracle. Or say 100 consecutive cancer remissions due to prayer. Or whatever.3. Anyway, instead of focusing on frequency of occurrences as a determining factor, I think it might be better to judge on a case by case basis whether natural causes could completely explain an event or not.4. Obviously we can't tell what future medical science may further uncover as far as what constitutes clinical death. What we say is based on our best understanding of modern medical science. I talked a bit about this in my very first comment. I can try to add more though if you have a specific question.5. With regard to this specific case, assuming the doctor's report is entirely accurate, then, yes, 20-30 mins of someone's heart stopped, without blood pumping, without even a blood pressure, would a strong indication that the person is dead as far as medical science can tell. What's more, there were credible eyewitnesses who could testify to the death of the patient using all the available evidence in the operating room - i.e. the attending surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the other surgical and anesthetic residents or junior doctors present. So there wasn't just one eyewitness. And again I trust most if not all the eyewitnesses were educated enough and competent enough to be able to comprehend the medical criteria to call death.
Patrick,I am not sure I agree with your assessment about frequency and miracles. Certainly infrequency is not a sine qua non for establishing miracles, but I would say it is an important consideration. I say this because one of my main questions has not been addressed yet. It is quite common to see people experience no vital signs for 25-30 minutes and return to full function, but where are the reports for people experiencing no vital signs for 25-30 hours and returning to full function? My contention is can we really say in the first case people are dead without a fuller understanding of why these cases are so common? And yet we hear of no cases where people have had no vital signs for much longer periods of time and then came back. At least I haven't. Perhaps someone can supply the data if that is the case. If there is a natural but as yet undiscovered reason for the frequency of the first cases I would think that has a bearing on understanding what is happening with NDE's. Furthermore, if these people are truly dead shouldn't we be proclaiming that the dead are raised all the time? And how do we reconcile this to the fact that it is appointed unto man ONCE to die (Heb. 9:27) if that is so frequently not the case?
Alright since everyone seems to be missing the point f the question MSC is asking I will answer it. Without any kind of preventative measures, such as hypothermia, 25 - 30 minutes of ceased biological function would mean enough breakdown of your brain and other organs that your body is no longer capable of sustaining life or consciousness, i.e., life. Your body also, when this happens, sends something you could call a "shutdown" signal to every cell in your body, I am not entirely sure why, but that's why all organs die at the same time, since some can continue functioning longer than others after brain death/cardiac arrest. So you won't see someone come back to consciousness (I call it that instead of death because death is permanent, hence -near- death experience) after a very short duration of ceased function and no counter measures against degradation specifically of the brain. The facts are as well that these NDEs are reported with high functioning levels of cognition and understanding/comprehension, vivid details and colors, all kinds of higher thinking which simply wouldn't be possible to have without detectable brain activity. So, while I still cannot say without a doubt that there is an afterlife, it certainly is extremely mysterious and compelling evidence towards that conclusion! How was that, did I answer your question?
MSC,In 3rd world countries there are annecdotal claims of resurrections of persons dead for hours (even days). Some (maybe most) of these reports are probably false . But as a charismatic, I have no problem with some of them possibly being genuine. Maybe the reason there aren't more documented cases of resurrections is that documentation is something that's easier done in 1st world countries. Countries which are also strongly influenced by an anti-supernatural bias. A bias that make Christians less likely to believe for miracles like resurrections. It's also a fact that in 1st world countries the dead are almost immediately taken away from family members and/or medical staff and then isolated (i.e. in morgues). I know because I used to work in a hospital morgue in my youth. While there's no distance in prayer, healings, miracles, and resurrections in the Bible usually occured in the presence of believing folk. Often they were even performed by believers through the laying on of hands. This was so common in Jesus' ministry, and his reputation so preceded him, that people would come to him and ask Him to lay his hands on their sick family members.With God all things are possible. But I can guarantee you that by the time a deceased family member has had their blood replaced by formalin and had their lips sewn shut (etc.), that most 1st world Christians don't have enough faith for a resurrection. Unless of course God sovereignly resurrected the person apart from the normal means of faith (I'm a Calvinists too btw). So, if there's no resurrection in that kind of a situation, then there's no way to ask the person if they had a "Near-Death Experience". Or should I say, a "PAST-Death Experience" (heh).