What Happens When You Die – A scene from the movie “Flatliners”, in which a group of medical students intentionally stop each other’s hearts. Michael Gibson / Sony Pictures
Few things seem more absolute than death. But when it comes to actually pinpointing the moment when a person goes from alive to dead, drawing the line is a little more fraught.
What Happens When You Die
Sam Parnia of NYU Langone, a pulmonologist who studies resuscitation, notes that from that point, it takes 20 seconds before the brain wave is no longer detectable.
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According to Parnia, this sets off a longer chain of processes leading to brain death. “If you manage to restart the heart, which is what CPR is trying to do, gradually start to make the brain work again. The longer you do CPR, those ways of death of brain cells are still happening – they just are. it happens at a slightly slower pace,” Parnia said
In cases of cardiac arrest, doctors are usually unable to restore blood flow to the heart. That is why the experiences of people who have successfully risen are so fascinating.
The story touches on a vast history of efforts to define death and to understand what are commonly called “near-death experiences.” In a 2014 study, doctors interviewed more than 100 people who went into cardiac arrest and were successfully resuscitated: 39 percent of them described a perception of consciousness, although they could not tell specifics . A woman in a similar, previous study, described a sensation of floating over her body and looking like the doctor called “code blue”.
These cases blur the line and challenge a definition that might seem clear to most people, but they continue to be the subject of ongoing debate. Cardiologist Haider Warraich expands the debate in bioethics on whether decapitation, separating a head from its body, is automatically equal to death. Warraich also mentions the case of doctors in the 1800s trying to distinguish life from death by plunging needles attached to small flags into the chest of corpses (if the flag fluttered, the heart was beating and the person was considered alive).
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To try to prove their point that a creature could be “alive” without its head, a group of researchers in the 1990s decapitated a pregnant sheep and connected its body to a breathing machine. They delivered the baby sheep by C-section. “There is no ambiguity here: the sheep was alive during the experiment.” the researchers wrote, concluding “decapitated animals are not necessarily dead.”
And these definitions are not chosen in a vacuum. Warraich writes that the decision to draw the line at “brain death” was motivated by the advent of organ transplants. When organ transplants became possible, doctors needed a clear marker of when a person was “dead enough” to remove their organs. The doctor who performed the first heart transplant in South Africa gave the donor a lethal injection to remove any room for debate.
Joseph Frankel is a science and health writer. He previously worked for The Atlantic and WNYC. Joseph Frankel is a science and health writer. He previously worked for the Atlantic and WNYC…. Read moreIn this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at what happens when you die! We cover four specific theories and beliefs, as we take a journey into the great unknown… to answer one of the most important questions in modern science!
Of the many unexplained questions in science, one perhaps reigns supreme over all others: what happens when you die? And although it is a universal, universal curiosity, it is also a question that remains (in many ways) unanswered today as it has been for thousands of years before. Our many advances in science and technology haven’t really gotten us any closer to discovering the truth…so even the weirdest theories can’t be completely discredited.
What Happens When You Die? Your Thoughts On The Afterlife
This is Unveiled and today we explain four of the weirdest theories about what happens when we die.
Studying what happens after death is an almost impossible task, with most scientific methods lacking or not yet started. Researchers cannot observe the afterlife by sending a probe here; we can’t find answers by peering into someone’s mind; and science cannot even stage direct experiments, because having a control group would require effectively killing the participants – which, to say, is unethical. The closest anyone can really get to discovering (on a scientific basis) what happens when we die would be to accidentally study the brain of a dying person before, during and after they pass. I.e., they should have been in something like an MRI machine (by chance) at the exact moment they died. And this actually happened in 2022, when an elderly man had a heart attack while his brain was being scanned. We take a closer look in another recent video (so be sure to check that one out later) but the main lesson learned in this particular case is that there is neurological evidence that your life is flashing before your eyes. But, still, as this is just one case, academics are wary of drawing too broad a conclusion from it. All of which means that science in general cannot say with certainty what will come next…which leaves room for many competing theories, ideas, and beliefs.
First, let’s go back to the Aztec Empire, a relatively short-lived, but still influential civilization in Earth’s history. For a time, the Aztec kingdom dominated a large part of Mesoamerica, producing key advances ranging from roads, to medicines, from written law to poetry. In the darker side of Aztec history, however, there is an infamous practice of human sacrifice. It is thought that thousands were killed each year to appease the Aztec gods, with some estimates reaching up to a quarter of a million sacrifices annually. It is also thought, however, that the victims of the sacrifice themselves believed that they had a brilliant afterlife in front of them … because the Aztecs considered that it was how you die, and not how you live, that will most determine what it happens to your soul. Warriors who died in battle, women who died in childbirth, and victims of sacrifice, for example, were promised honors of the afterlife… like being responsible for the resurrection of the sun. It was said that then they would also turn into beautiful creatures, such as hummingbirds or butterflies. Meanwhile, in some circumstances, even in accidental death, another version of paradise awaits. If you’re lucky enough on Earth to live to old age, though, that would be unfortunate too…because you’ve just earned a ticket to hell. People who died of natural causes were expected to go on an excruciating, years-long journey into the deepest depths of the afterlife where they would be forced to serve the Aztec god of the dead. We can clearly see, then, how science has changed this particular belief in the modern world.
Later, and to another civilization a little worried about death; the ancient Egyptians. For them, the process of death (which doubled as a trial) was an extremely important and detailed event in which the living were as much a part as the dead… and thus, the highest-ranking figures especially were everyone’s permission. rites and rituals possible. After mummification, the dead individual, perhaps a pharaoh, was said to go by boat through hell. The wretched inhabitants of this place include fearsome creatures, reptilians and fire-breathing dragons…but the dead could navigate. After arriving in the land of the dead, Duat, a slightly more welcoming place, it was said that the dead then had to remember and recite various and specific spells… and then they could finally move into the judgment hall. . Now, the belief was that his literal heart would be weighed against a feather of truth, with the case of the dead presided over by the Gods above. If the scales fell equally, then that person was granted immortality in the afterlife. But if the scales don’t match, they must be devoured by a part-hippo, part-lion, part-crocodile demon called Ammit – otherwise known as the heart eater. The living could help the dead towards a better outcome, however, by burying them with valuables, leaving offerings and writing spells on their coffins. But even the worst fate in Ancient Egypt was not having the possibility of an afterlife. Those who were considered to have disobeyed the pharaoh were met with a gruesome “double death” by beheading, with the idea that this also prevented them from having the chance to live forever.
Ugh. When You Die Your Brain Knows You’re Dead.
Today, we can talk so vividly about Egyptian beliefs because they left relatively detailed records, but this is not the case with all groups… and a culture that is popular now despite fewer surviving records are the Norse Vikings. However, what is known is that the Norse also placed a high value on someone’s death, with the ultimate goal being to die in battle to be taken to Valhalla, rather than the icy world of Hel. Here, you can expect to meet with other gods, to eat, drink, and fight some more… and all in preparation for