We Know We’re Dead When We Die, Doctor Explains

by : Julia Banim on : 15 Apr 2019 20:36

My first article of the day at UNILAD HQ and I am being made to feel the full terror of mortality over my coffee.

I had long hoped that dying would involve a bright warming light, emitting all the happiest memories which made those measly few years on the planet sort of worthwhile.

Sadly, the reality could be far more grim. Although many of us would rather be blissfully oblivious at the point of death – regardless of what our beliefs may be – this might not be the case.


Medical experts have suggested that when you die, ‘you know you’re dead because your brain keeps working’. This means that even after your heart stops and you are no longer able to move, your consciousness will keep on letting you know what’s going on around you.

Dr Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine made the claim following extensive research into people who were revived after being declared technically dead.

Dr Parnia’s research, published in the medical journal Resuscitation, found cardiac arrest survivors were aware of the goings on around them while ‘dead’ before they were ‘brought back to life’.


This ostensibly means you are trapped inside your own corpse while your brain continues to whir, and could well hear yourself pronounced dead.

Dr Parnia found how those who had survived the trauma of cardiac arrest could later describe what was going on around them after their hearts stopped.

As reported by The Sun, Dr Parnia said:


They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working, they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.

The accuracy of these accounts were then reportedly verified by the medical and nursing staff who had been present at the time of the cardiac arrest.

Death is pronounced by medical staff when the heart stops beating, and the blood flow to the brain is cut off.


As reported by The Independent, Dr Sam Parnia explained:

Technically, that’s how you get the time of death – it’s all based on the moment when the heart stops.

Once that happens, blood no longer circulates to the brain, which means brain function halts almost instantaneously.

You lose all your brain stem reflexes – your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that is gone.

Great stuff. Happy Hump Day everyone…


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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Health, Death, Medical Science


Resuscitation Journal and 2 others
  1. Resuscitation Journal

    AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study

  2. The Sun

    LIFE AFTER DEATH When you die ‘you KNOW you’re dead because your brain keeps working’, scientist claims

  3. The Independent

    When you die you know you are dead: Major study shows mind still works after the body shows no signs of life