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New York Doctor Resurrects Patients from the Dead

Update Date: Apr 09, 2013 01:17 PM EDT
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Dr. Sam Parnia is head of intensive care at Stony Brook Hospital in New York where he restores life to his patients' even hours after they have been dead. Using a conservative extrapolation method, Parnia believes he can save up to 40,000 American lives a year.

Parnia was trained in the UK and moved to the U.S. in 2005. As an MD frustrated with medical establishments that are reluctant to recognize how many lives his methodology can save, Parnia recently published a book called The Lazarus Effect, aiming to redefine people's understanding of death.

"It is my belief that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more. That is: every heart attack victim should no longer die. I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, 'My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened'. But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed. If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases," Parnia told The Observer.

Parnia's mission is to raise awareness of the advances in the medical profession since he believes most medical environments still operate as if it were the 1960s or 1970s. Parnia hopes doctors will accept new practices of drastically cooling the corpse to slow neuronal deterioration and monitoring and maintaining oxygen levels to the brain to resuscitate patients.

Parnia criticized widespread technique of the CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) used today, pointing out that in the event of a death, young doctors will be sent to perform CPR on patients as if the hospital has already given up on them.

"Most doctors will do CPR for 20 minutes and then stop," he says. "The decision to stop is completely arbitrary but it is based on an instinct that after that time brain damage is very likely and you don't want to bring people back into a persistent vegetative state. But if you understand all the things that are going on in the brain in those minutes - as we now can - then you can minimize that possibility. There are numerous studies that show that if you implement all the various resuscitation steps together you not only get a doubling of your survival rates but the people who come back are not brain damaged."

Parnia says medical professionals need to realize that machines are much better at CPR than doctors. He also believes the level of care needs to be improved in these moments shortly following death to preserve the brain cells by cooling down the body and also maintaining the level of oxygen in the blood.

The technique Parnia is referencing is called ECMO and is already a standard practice in Japan. By siphoning out the blood of the deceased through a membrane oxygenator and pumping it around again, doctors can buy time to fix the problem which caused the death. If the level of oxygen to the brain is maintained at 45 percent or higher, research shows there is a good chance the heart will start again. This means dead time can be extended to hours and still have a turn around.

"The longest I know of is a Japanese girl I mention in the book," Parnia says. "She had been dead for more than three hours. And she was resuscitated for six hours. Afterwards, she returned to life perfectly fine and has, I have been told, recently had a baby."

"In ICU, I see people dying every day and each time it happens a part of you thinks, one day this will be me. There will be people huddling round my bed deciding whether or not to resuscitate and I know one thing for sure: I don't want it just down to pot luck whether I end up brain damaged or even alive."

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