Sorry to disappoint, but the “blurred lines” to which I am referring are not the ones in the popular song. They are the blurred lines that I’ve discovered, thanks to reading Dr Sam Parnia’s fascinating book, Erasing Death. Research and modern life-saving techniques reveal that death is not a specific moment, as most of us think, but rather, a process. The event that begins the death process is a cardiac arrest. For whatever reason, when the heart stops pumping blood, cell deterioration begins almost immediately because the cells have been deprived of oxygen and cannot rid themselves of carbon dioxide. What science has learned is that by lowering the body temperature, cell activity slows, and accordingly, so does the need for oxygen. Chemicals that lower the body’s temperature can be introduced to slow the death processes, the fault can be repaired, the body re-warmed, and the heart restarted. The line between life and death has been blurred.

Here’s where things get interesting. During these cardiac arrests, there is no brain activity. In many documented cases, this state of no brain activity has existed for more than a few moments. In about 15% of cases where there has been no brain activity and the patient later resuscitated, the patients have reported what the author calls, “ADE’s” – Actual Death Experiences (in contrast to what others call “NDEs – Near Death Experiences). They are actual because there has been no brain activity. The person is dead. Dr Parnia reports that what the patients describe is remarkably similar despite differences in religion or culture. Of particular interest are the reports where the deceased looks down from a higher vantage point and sees the team of surgeons and nurses working on the person’s body. The patient hears what should not be able to be heard and sees what should not be able to be seen because there is no brain activity. But the greater point that Dr Parnia raises is that the self, or the soul, continues to exist after all brain activity as ceased. This would seem to suggest that those out-of-body experiences were not hallucinations created by brains starved of oxygen, as others have theorized. For when the brain has been deprived of oxygen for short periods in other situations, the same phenomena have never occurred.

Erasing Death leaves a lot for one to think about. Apparently, the overwhelming positive experience which the dead have returned to describe have not discouraged medicine from doing all in its power to delay that time from coming. Today’s Christians, for the most part, are no better. They do not seem to share Paul’s enthusiasm, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”