Apparently I was dead for an hour

by nboydgibbins

It is often wrongly reported that a person’s heart has stopped during a heart attack. Worse still, how many times have we heard that an individual was ‘dead’ for a period of time? If anyone could prove that someone had returned from the dead, even once in our history, that would be world news and would also give credit to theological debates that, thankfully, haven’t been debates for a century in rational quarters.

In scientific terms a person is dead when their higher brain activity ceases, and from that there can be no return. This misnomer, like many others, has routes in medicine where clinical death is often defined as an end to un-aided circulation and breathing. As far as the heart is concerned, if electrical activity stops completely, heart transplantation is the only remaining treatment. Heart attacks come in several varieties, but they all involve atypical electrical firing patterns. Normally, a precise pattern of electrical activity (that can be influenced by hormones) activates the various muscles of the heart, in concert, to pump blood through its volume. When the electrical activity deviates from its distinctive pattern, the result is ineffective muscular stimulation in the heart (often a fluttering of the chambers that causes little or no useful blood flow).

So when headline newspapers, or any other source, state that an individual’s heart had for a time stopped, it’s a slight inaccuracy of wording as their heart had merely stopped effectively pumping blood. When it is asserted that someone was dead for a period of time, this is utterly meaningless. The only result of being dead for a short period of time is to then go on to be dead for a very long period of time, with no break in-between.

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