In its Uniform Declaration of Death Act (1980), the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine says, “death has occurred when an individual has sustained either irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory function or irreversible cessation of all function of the entire brain including the brain stem.”
"Such a choked, clinical description makes death seem thin when compared to the narrative richness of religious poetry through the centuries—from Buddhist visions of ongoing reincarnation to the proverbial meeting with St. Peter at the pearly gates. Clinical language also falls short of the everyday experience of the millions of people who have opened that door and survived—later to recall their encounter with death through unexplained lucid episodes of heightened awareness—that mythical light at the end of the tunnel."
Despite being the domain of speculation by philosophers and poets since the dawn of time, death has never been the subject of rigorous scientific study—until now. More and more clinicians are now recording near-death experiences.
Over the past two decades, Dr. Parnia has led pioneering research into the recalled experiences of death, particularly among survivors of cardiac arrest. The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) studies from his lab examined the experiences of hundreds of patients with cardiac arrest who had biologically crossed over the threshold of death before being resuscitated. Many of the survivors report seeing deceased relatives and reviewing their actions and intentions toward others throughout their lives, and afterward, many recalled details of their resuscitation.
"We sat down recently with Parnia to better understand what happens as we near that inevitable moment at the end of all our lives."