Over the last 50 years, there has quite a revolution in medicine, in extending people’s lives and delaying death. The most well-known ways this has been achieved is through surgery, medicines, better patient care, and more. However, one method of delaying death which has been ignored by many is revival, which is “the reversing of death” in simple terms, although this is not strictly true in fact, as the following paragraph will show. This essay will show how revival techniques have improved in the past and how they will break more barriers in the future, lengthening life expectancy for all.
First, the common understanding of death has to be scrapped and changed for revival to make sense. Most people, even those who are interested in medicine and science, see death as a single moment in time. This is not helped by the fact that death certificates give a time and date for the death of a person. In reality, the body’s cells die first, when a person has just become “dead”. Only after key organs are damaged beyond repair, like the heart, lungs, and brain, due to cell death after a person stops breathing, can a patient be considered to be dead in today’s world. Even in this situation, technically a person is still not really dead as in the future, even people with key organs damaged beyond repair will be able to be revived. A universally accepted view of death, however, is when all the cells of a body are not conducting respiration and have undergone cell death. A person in this situation cannot be revived no matter the advances in technology in the future.1
But what techniques are used to revive patients at the moment? A new method is giving patients recently “dead”, a 24-hour cooling experience at temperatures 5-20 degrees Celsius below the standard internal body temperature of 37.2 degrees Celsius. This reduces inflammation in the body and slows metabolism, the number of chemical reactions occurring in the body. This prevents lysosomes from carrying out apoptosis within cells, preventing cell death. Zach Conrad was in this exact situation in June 2012. He had a cardiac arrest out of the blue and soon “died”. His wife however forced medical professionals to take Conrad to the University of Pennsylvania where they were conducting this resuscitation research using the 24-hour cooling technique. By using this technique of cooling on Conrad to prevent apoptosis and lower inflammation in the body, as well as providing post-arrest care to Conrad, after five days he regained consciousness. This shows how large of an impact, cooling the body has on resuscitation.
CPR is famous for being a simple, inexpensive way of resuscitating patients. However, the issues with the current uses of CPR are that doctors and paramedics are currently taught to do 100 compressions per minute on each patient required to be resuscitated. This basic way of carrying out CPR is not very successful as different patients will require a different number of compressions per minute, as well as varying levels of force used in compressions at different times. This is where future technology comes in to help. At the moment a GPS, carrying out cerebral oximetry, is being created. This system will be able to monitor the levels of oxygen given to the brain in each chest compression and accordingly, will advise the medical professional providing CPR on how best to optimise their technique for a specific patient.2
Another method that could be used in the future to resuscitate patients are drugs tackling apoptosis. Apoptosis is controlled cell death, and used the organelles lysosomes in cells, to carry this out using enzymes and more. If apoptosis is delayed or prevented when a patient has stopped breathing, this will mean that doctors are given much more time to resuscitate a patient and therefore there is a higher chance that the resuscitation of a patient will be successful.
Not all of the advances in resuscitation have to be cutting-edge either. Many hospital doctors stop resuscitation efforts after 16 minutes. If those doctors just kept trying to resuscitate those patients for 10 more minutes, it is quite likely they would have been successful. In current medicine, hospitals are very vague on how long resuscitation efforts should go on for. With more guidelines on this in the future, many more patients’ lives can be saved with no new technology needed.
Therefore, the future is bright for resuscitation in medicine. With drugs preventing apoptosis, more emphasis on cooling bodies, more guidelines on resuscitation attempts in hospitals, and other advances in technology, resuscitation will become commonplace as well as very successful in the next 20 to 30 years.
- Hickok, K., 2019. Zombie Science: Could We Ever Resurrect The Dead?. [online] livescience.com. Available at: <https://www.livescience.com/65542-zombies-real-resurrection-experiments.html> [Accessed 30 October 2020].
- Nuwer, R., 2013. Will We Ever Bring The Dead Back To Life?. [online] BBC.com. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20131031-will-we-ever-bring-the-dead-back> [Accessed 30 October 2020].