Advance on Emergency Medicine

Fascinating read on emergency medicine. The definition of death has always been changing with the advance of medical technology. Just 100 years ago, death is equated with the stopping of the heart. Now we have defibrillator that shock the heart into functioning. Another similar discovery is now coming into light.

It appears we might be able to resuscitate a person who has stopped breathing for an hour. Under modern medicine it seems most people aren't dying from oxygen deprivation and cell break down. In fact, cells of a person who has "died" for an hour has no signs of cellular break down. The startling discovery is that we actually die from the re-introduction of oxygen into the system.

You see, once the cell has been deprived of oxygen for too long (about 5 minutes) then get re-introduced to oxygen, our body will stop recognizing those cells as friendly. Our body treat these "unfriendly cells" as abnormal cells - aka cancer. The standard body cellular response is programmed cell death - to stop the spread of these "abnormal cells".

So it is kind of ironic, under modern medical care, most of us will die under these involuntary cellular response to false cancer alert.

Now, knowing the real reason of how we die, emergency medicine can be extended up to an hour after breathing stops.

I am wondering how brain damage from oxygen deprivation fit into the article, since it wasn't mentioned. But still, this discovery is a great step towards better medical care.

EDIT: the same story reached Slashdot: Treating the Dead. Read it there.


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