And no, I’m not talking about AOC. This is different; it turns out that our consciousness may last for seconds to minutes after cessation of heart/lung activity. I don’t know about you, but I find that downright unsettling. Excerpt:
Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest, which is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drives the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. This moment when the heart stops is considered by medical professionals to be the clearest indication that someone has died.
But what happens inside our mind during this process? Does death immediately overtake our subjective experience or does it slowly creep in?
Scientists have studied near-death experiences (NDEs) in an attempt to gain insights into how death overcomes the brain. What they’ve found is remarkable: A surge of electricity enters the brain moments before brain death. One 2013 study, which examined electrical signals inside the heads of rats, found that the rodents entered a hyper-alert state just before death.
Here’s the part I find disconcerting:
Medical staff confirm this, he said. But how could people who were technically dead be cognizant of what’s happening around them? Even after our breathing and heartbeat stop, we remain conscious for about two to 20 seconds, Dr. Parnia says. That’s how long the cerebral cortex is thought to last without oxygen. This is the thinking and decision-making part of the brain. It’s also responsible for deciphering the information gathered from our senses.
According to Dr. Parnia, during this period, “You lose all your brain stem reflexes — your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that is gone.” Brain waves from the cerebral cortex soon become undetectable. Even so, it can take hours for our thinking organ to fully shut down.
I’m a little unsure what to think about that, presuming it’s accurate, and the cited authority certainly knows more about it than I do. But even twenty seconds, knowing that you’re gone, having that brief time to contemplate it before the darkness overtakes you – I’d prefer not to have that happen.
We don’t get to choose, of course. Both of my parents died peacefully in their sleep, aged 90 and 94, with at least one of their children in attendance. I doubt they experienced anything like this, as both of them were in terminal comas for some time before death. I’ve always (and will continue) to take some comfort in that. As for me, I honestly would prefer not to have those seconds or minutes to contemplate my own passing; were I to have my druthers, when my time comes, as it comes to all of us, I’d prefer to go out like flicking a switch.
But, again, we don’t get to choose. So – thoughts?