Years of dedicated work by Dr. Sam Parnia and his colleagues have finally resulted in the publication of the AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) of the nature of consciousness during cardiac arrest and resuscitation. It was published at the end of 2014 in the international medical journal “Resuscitation”, with the journal reference: Parnia, S, et al, (2014), AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study. Resuscitation, 85: 1799-1805. Interested readers can download the article by clicking on the link HERE. The title page of the article reveals much about the nature of this study.
This turned out to be a rather more extensive website than originally planned, so here is an index of links to sections of this website.
The title, the numbers of participating institutions and physicians, the methodology, as well as the analysis, reveal this to be a landmark study requiring enormous persistence and effort on the part of Sam Parnia. This wonderful study is a credit to Sam Parnia, his co-workers, and the participating institutions. It finally provides data about the possibility, and nature of consciousness during cardiac arrest and massage in an independent multinational study.
Many people believe it is impossible for the human brain to be conscious during cardiac arrest and resuscitation (see extensive discussion of this belief by clicking HERE). Furthermore, associations such as the IANDS (International Association of Near Death Studies), and many people writing books on the subject of near-death experiences, believe that human conscious is not a product of brain function, but that the body and brain are merely the conduit for a consciousness outside the body (see extensive discussion of this belief by clicking HERE). So many of those believing in the reality of this extracorporeal nature of consciousness believed the AWARE study would finally provide confirmation of the reality of the extracorporeal nature of consciousness. But is this true? What do the results of Sam Parnia's AWARE study truly reveal?
The AWARE study was performed in several countries according to an identical fixed protocol. It is a study whose structure ensured a critical and accurate study. So let us look at some of the important statistics.
The above statistics reveal that cardiac arrest is very often fatal. Of the 2060 persons whose statistics were included in the study, 2060 - 330 = 1730 died during the cardiac arrest period. Of the 330 survivors, 190 were too brain damaged, too ill to be interviewed, had died, or refused to be interviewed (Page 1801 in Parnia 2014). So all this study reveals is that only 140 of the 330 survivors were in a condition to be interviewed, and were willing to be interviewed. This is a &lquo;self-selected” group resulting in very evident conclusions:
Nonetheless, even when these limitations are taken into account, the AWARE study of Sam Parnia and his co-workers remains a landmark study: finally demonstrating to physicians, that many people undergoing resuscitation for cardiac arrest may actually be conscious, even though they appear unconscious, and neither breathe, nor have any heartbeat.
Sam Parnia and his colleagues were at a loss to explain the presence of consciousness in persons suffering from cardiac arrest. This is clearly revealed in the discussion of their article.
Although the etiology of awareness during CA (Cardiac Arrest) is unknown, the results of our study and in particular our verified case of VA suggest it may be dissimilar to awareness during anesthesia. While some investigators have hypothesized there may be a brief surge of electrical activity after cardiac standstill, in contrast to anesthesia typically there is no measurable brain function within seconds after cardiac standstill. This 'flatlined' isoelectric brain state which occurs with CA onset usually continues throughout CPR (CardioPulmonary Resuscitation) since insufficient cerebral blood flow (CBF) is achieved to meet cerebral metabolic requirements during conventional CPR. (Page 1803 in Parnia 2014)
Actually physiology explains the presence of consciousness during cardiac arrest very well. The physiology of consciousness during cardiac arrest is explained extensively in Chapter 12 of the book Illusory Souls, as well as more succinctly in the website HERE.
For example, a classic example of losing consciousness due to cardiac arrest was described by a woman in the book “Life After Life” by Robert Moody in 1976.
Suddenly, I was gripped by squeezing chest pains, just as though an iron band had been clamped quickly around the middle part of my chest and tightened. My husband and a friend of ours heard me fall and came running in to help me. I found myself in a deep blackness, and through it I heard my husband, as if he were at a great distance, saying, "This is it, this time!" And my thoughts were, "Yes, it is." (page 27 in Moody 1976)
It is surprising that this article does not even mention these long-known and recognized possibilities. And this brings us to the really very substandard discussion of the results.
The discussion of the results is in some aspects substandard, and totally ignores the reality of human research performed since the 1960's. This passage in particular….
While some investigators have hypothesized there may be a brief surge of electrical activity after cardiac standstill,16 in contrast to anesthesia typically there is no measurable brain function within seconds after cardiac standstill.17-21 This 'flatlined' isoelectric brain state which occurs with CA onset usually continues throughout CPR since insufficient cerebral blood flow (CBF) is achieved22 to meet cerebral metabolic requirements during conventional CPR.23-25 (Page 1803 in Parnia 2014)
Sam Parnia is telling us in this passage in this passage is that conventional external heart massage cannot supply the brain with sufficient oxygen to restore or sustain consciousness. He does use the term “usually”, and then negates this entirely by saying that heart massage generates insufficient blood flow to meet brain oxygen requirements. He provides references to scientific articles to support these contentions. So let us examine the articles he lists. These are references 22 to 25.
Are these articles relevant to his discussion, and do these articles actually support his contentions? Let us examine them.
Do these studies support his contentions? The answer is yes, and no. They are animal studies performed in a manner very different to normal clinical cardiac arrest resuscitation practice. What these studies do demonstrate is that the longer the period between arrest and resuscitation, the more brain damage occurs, which is relevant to human practice. Nonetheless, Sam Parnia totally ignores human studies demonstrating that efficient cardiac massage can provide sufficient blood flow to the brain to support consciousness, and that a small percentage of persons are even clearly awake during efficient cardiac massage. Furthermore, he generalizes from averages, and applies an average to all. This is a cardinal error. There are always a few who rise above the average. These exceptions do not negate the average, but are simply those who are at the outer limits above and below an average. Sam Parnia's study reveals that cardiac arrest is a very lethal event, and that only a few people survive relatively intact. This could even be called “The Pyramid of Death”.
The above diagram of the “The Pyramid of Death” showing the statistics of the Sam Parnia Aware study reveals in no uncertain terms how rare the occurrence of an NDE during cardiac arrest is. This is a clear demonstration of how few people suffer cardiac arrest under optimum situations where they are efficiently resuscitated, are conscious during arrest, and even retain normal neurological function. These people are rare, but this does not mean that anything inexplicable, or paranormal is occurring, as is implied in the discussion of Sam Parnia. In fact the physiology of cardiac resuscitation, and the Fick Equation predict that some people will be conscious, and possibly even undergo an NDE during cardiac arrest and resuscitation.
Despite all its many shortcomings of explanation by the authors—the AWARE study directed by Sam Parnia is an important “landmark study”. It reveals more than ever, the very likely physiological basis of conscious experiences occurring during cardiac arrest and resuscitation. In so doing it provides experimental proof the for the physiological basis of near-death experiences during cardiac arrest. In short, this article does the following: