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on 23 June 2013
The first half of this book is devoted to the emerging science of resuscitation; the author details precisely how people die, and how they are - or can be - brought back to life. He bemoans the lack of organisation in terms of critical care that leaves a majority of those who suffer cessation of critical functions, who could be 'recovered' but aren't, prematurely dead, because of a failure of understanding, coordination or simply availability of resources. I found this of only moderate interest, though I acknowledge the information is something many others might appreciate knowing. Certainly, the author does a good job of explaining highly technical and often complicated procedures in comprehensible terms.

It is only in the second half of the book that Sam Parnia begins to examine what happens to the consciousness, rather than the body, of those who die, and then, often after several hours, come back to life. He is especially intrigued by the accounts of a number of survivors that seem to show they continue to enjoy the use of faculties - sight, hearing, thought - registering as scientifically non existent during the period between their clinical death and their subsequent recovery.

He examines most of the explanations put forward by fellow scientists for this phenomenon; and in straightforward, layman's terms, details why they fail to hold water. As a scientist himself, he is not dismissive of the various 'brain failure' hypotheses as cause for what he prefers to term ADEs (actual death experiences) rather than NDEs (near death experiences); but the case for these is so weak, he is forced to conclude something other than physiological forces are at work.

He devotes the remainder of his book to explaining what he believes these forces are. That is, he methodically examines what it is that makes us individuals, by exploring the origin, seat and motive force of our psyches - by which he means individual consciousness. His tentative suggestion (he is too circumspect to call it a 'conclusion') is what I found most interesting about the entire book. He first points out what should be obvious to the meanest intelligence. Science is only able to verify what it can currently measure.

At present, it can't explain, never mind isolate, consciousness. It assumes, somewhat blithely, that it - consciousness - must be the result of brain activity, since the two so closely accompany one another. That it might be the other way around, with the brain 'channelling' consciousness, seems unthinkable. However, as Parnia points out, parallels exist. Electromagnetic rays have been in existence since time immemorial. They 'predate' humanity. Yet, until 'science' learned how to measure them, the opinion of the day would have been that they didn't - couldn't - exist.

Parnia thinks it is reasonable to suppose there might be other elements, or entities, that exist, and always have existed, but that science is currently unable to detect, or explain. One of these, he believes, might be consciousness. His suggests this is likely to be because it - consciousness - is irreducible. In other words, it requires something other than the current measuring tools of science in order to be properly recognised, beyond it's obvious 'effects'. Parnia is confident the necessary tool will one day be found. In the meantime, he is content to work in areas which are readily accessible. Chiefly, that means studying reports of those who have clinically died but claim to have had conscious experiences of living outside their bodies while 'dead', and verifying, or proving false, their claims in as objective a way as he can.

To that end he describes the current state of play in the AWARE project, which aims, amongst other things, to study reports of ADEs and NDEs first hand, and to try and establish any corroboration between what is claimed by a person when 'out of their body' and what occurred at 'ground level'

I don't think this is a great book on the subject, but it is a useful addition. Nothing the author says shows that it has yet been proved that individual consciousness can continue to exist after brain death, still less persist indefinitely. Quite what would constitute convincing proof is open for debate. Science would like something more than an endless succession of anecdotes, which are proving tantalisingly difficult to verify. Some of these anecdotes have become near myths in their own right. The 'shoe on the ledge', the 'false teeth in the drawer'. Sceptics love to tear these accounts apart, to show how risible the subject is.

I suppose 'extraordinary claims' do require 'extraordinary evidence'; but I occasionally experience a sense of wonder that in courtrooms across the world, people are being convicted of crimes, and sentenced, on the basis of testimony that is no more certain than anecdote. Often, the word of a casual witness is taken as fact, whereas the accounts of those who have experienced NDEs are regularly derided, primarily as being unreliable.

Still, that is the way science works. It will resist anything outside its comfort zone, until it is blue in the face. It has to do this, because generally, ninety nine wacky theories clamouring for its attention will fall by the wayside, having been correctly labelled false. Whatever is persistent enough, though, usually has an element of truth to it. Eventually, science relents, and in the blink of an eye, proclaims its new understanding from the pulpit, as if it had been heralding it all along. Only time will tell what will happen concerning the study of consciousness. My money is on our brains having evolved to filter it, rather than it having evolved as a function of brain. I think Dr Sam Parnia believes this, too; but he recognises there is a long way to go to prove it.
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on 6 March 2013
In the Lazarus Effect, Sam Parnia has created a highly readable review of the area of resuscitation medicine and of the now widely accepted phenomena of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) or Actual Death Experiences as he calls them. He provides a very thorough exploration of all the possible scientific theories of NDEs, clearly explaining why each falls short. In addition he has brought to light some of the latest developments in medicine that effectively reverse the process of death.

The Lazarus effect also delves into the philosophical debate about the existence of the soul, and whether it is something that is generated by the brain or that uses the brain as a host. This discussion is expanded into the whole area of what consciousness means, including tussling with some of the modern attempts to explain it in quantum mechanical terms. Parnia is clearly a man who has contemplated and researched these concepts for many years, driven by the context of his own father's tragic permanent loss of consciousness and of the various experiences he has witnessed in emergency medicine.

However, many, would have bought this book to learn about results from the AWARE study and Dr Parnia does not disappoint. I will not put a spoiler in, particularly relating to any evidence supporting the out of body experience, but he does discuss some tantalizing initial findings. Interestingly, it would appear that a book published over a year ago, called Aware Of Aware by Ben Williams, may have been on the money when it came to predicting the outcome. From what is revealed in the Lazarus Effect it would appear that there are plans to expand the study and tighten some of the techniques used to insure better capturing of any evidence. As Parnia points out, this is a new area of science and these researchers are the trail blazers, so it is very much a learning process.

Overall, having read the US version (Erasing Death, released a week earlier), I would highly recommend the Lazarus Effect to anyone interested in the area of resuscitation medicine and NDEs. There are occasions when the writing is heavy on detail, and some readers may get impatient, however this level of thoroughness should be expected from someone of Parnia's status and experience and only adds to the increasing authority that he brings to this field. For anyone who wishes to be fully informed on the latest and most valuable research in this area, this is an absolute must read.

Well done Dr Parnia and thank you for your dedication to this incredibly important subject.
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on 25 March 2013
This book was written in the light of the Aware project which aims to examine the NDEs (or Actual Death Experiences as Parnia prefers to call them) of a large cohort of cardiac patients. Parnia is also a resuscitation expert and it is to methods of resuscitation that much of this book is devoted. Parnia views death as a continuum and some patients can literally be brought back from the dead to full brain health, providing that cerebral death hasn't progressed too far. A single chapter is devoted to the Aware study, and while this is just the first stage of that study, the preliminary results were somewhat meagre in terms of remembered NDES. However, that is not to say that NDEs or ADEs don't occur. It may simply be that patients who recall them do so because their memory circuits weren't as compromised as patients who don't or because patients actually die before they have a chance to recount them. At least one of the patients interviewed appeared to have undergone a veridical experience in which he was able accurately to recall events which took place around him while he was completely unconscious. Parnia seems to dismiss the idea of NDEs being the result of hallucination or other neurological effects, but it will be interesting to see what the final results of the study reveal. If NDEs are your primary interest, I wouldn't bother buying this book; there are other books out there which give precedence to the subject and one of the best of these is written by Peter Fenwick, a colleague of Parnia's. (The Truth in the Light) If, however, you're fascinated by the very real developments in resuscitation techniques in the last fifty years or so, then this is the book for you.
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on 3 June 2014
I learned a lot from this book concerning the physiology and biochemistry of death and that was fascinating. There are some anecdotes regarding near-death experiences and out of body experiences but they are pretty standard stuff. The experiment to verify OBE events was obviously an abject failure (due to poor design and under-funding) but the authors tended to make lame excuses, rather than face up to it. Towards the end I found myself skipping briefly over the pages, as it was merely repeating the message which, by now, the reader was thoroughly familiar. Worth a read, anyway.
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on 7 February 2014
This book is written for everyone to understand. The author approaches the subject of consciousness, soul within the scope of his medical knowledge without making any religious extrapolation into the problem. A number of extraordinary actual facts are discussed, presented to the reader in their raw form, for him to judge.
I really enjoyed the very scientific approach, and the book is never boring all the way to the end.
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on 29 May 2013
This book was easy to read as a non-medical person. I found the whole subject of cooling the body of cardiac-arrest sufferers intriguing, plus the detailed discussion of what happens to the soul or psyche when we die. A great insight into an important area of medical practice with an honest account of the shortcomings of hospital systems in delivering this care.
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on 30 April 2013
scientific progress continues to amaze. So many Titanic deaths could have been reversed had the technology and know-how been available. And so on. Medical progress is racing ahead with incremental jumps in understanding life processes and their variable shutting-down speeds. A remarkable and optimistic account.
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on 25 September 2015
Parnia has never equalled his tremendous, ground breaking first book. There is nothing new in this book. He,s merely trying to cash in on his name
and his first book. An empty, money generating venture. Boring.
Cier, Dublin
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on 16 May 2013
Came across this by chance, enjoyed it immensely. Well written and thought provoking. I just hope those involved in the medical profession read and digest this.
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on 25 February 2016
Incredible proof of the persistence of consciousness after brain cessation. Written after years of research by a critical care surgeon
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