Cause unknown. From Britain’s Daily Telegraph last year:
It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.
But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.
And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.
One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.
One issue worth considering is that clinical death today is a defined state.
A medic told News some years ago that people are often “clinically dead” during serious operations (= they are on cardiac bypass when doctors are at the last ditch to save their lives).
Then, if it works, their hearts/lungs are jolted back to life by electric shock. So the shout goes up: All hands OFF the patient!
Smart idea, that.
A skeptical reader wrote the Telegraph at the time to enquire,
Why would people have these experiences when they are dead but not when asleep or unconscious or under anaesthetic, or in a coma?
Good question. But, first, being “under anaesthetic” is a rather specific, modern experience—as is modern high tech resuscitation. That doesn’t mean the experience is uninformative, only that it is not natural, in the strict sense that it was likely to either happen all by itself or produce a witness.
Anaesthesia: Doctors walk people halfway to death, and then walk them back.
We have much to learn.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose