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Our understanding of death has changed dramatically
in the last hundred years.
I'm wondering what happens when we die.
Alex: So, I have been on a journey
to try to answer that one impossible question,
and it's taken me to a lot of interesting places.
Questions drive our show,
and this one comes from a YouTube viewer from Norway.
- Woman: Do you hear me? - Yeah, you sound great.
About your question--
What is that one question that everyone wants to know
but no one has the answer to?
I've lost a lot of people.
Someone I know really closely
who's been like a mother figure to me
just got terminal cancer,
and she has, like, a couple weeks left now.
I don't wanna sit here and think that they just die sadly
and fall into emptiness.
I'm super terrified of dying.
So, I'm not trying to prove the afterlife. That's unknowable.
But what if modern science could reveal what we'll experience
in the final moments of our lives?
( music playing )
More people are searching for what happens at the end of our lives,
so we're gonna figure that out.
You're gonna figure out what happens when we die?
Uh, I already have.
When Helle brought this question to me, I started digging,
and one thing that kept popping up was this video on a dog
that was brought back to life.
In 1926, a scientist came up with an experiment
that would redefine the way we would interpret the process of dying.
Dr. Sergei Brukhonenko drained dogs of blood,
and they died while connected
to his new machine the autojektor.
They stopped breathing and then their heartbeat ended.
They were believed to be completely dead.
Then the doctors waited.
After ten minutes without a heartbeat or breathing,
the autojektor cycled their bodies
with re-oxygenated arterial blood
and then the dogs came back to life.
And over time, they made a full recovery.
The dog experiment shows us that death was not just a moment in time,
but it was a long process.
So, that raised the question, if death is a process,
at what point do we truly die?
In the case of the dog,
that dog was actually never dead at all.
He had never died.
- What was he? - Allow me to explain.
That's a transition.
So what I have here are some custom
"Glad You Asked" tarot cards.
- Okay. - I picked these
because we tend to search for answers in the supernatural,
but there's still so much to be learned from science.
For most of human existence, life was thought to reside in two organs.
You had the heart and you had the lungs.
Do you have any idea why?
Those seem to be the ways that we can tell
if someone is dead from the outside--
- if they're breathing, if you can feel their heartbeat. - Exactly.
Alex: For thousands of years, we considered somebody dead
if they had no pulse and they weren't breathing.
But these signs can be misleading,
as people can actually recover from both.
This lead to fears of being buried alive.
Jean Jacques Winslow, a medical expert of his time,
stated that the safest way to define death
was putrefaction of the body, or decomposition.
But we still relied on that heart-lung definition.
Without signs of either, you're considered clinically dead.
In the last hundred years, that started to change.
In the '30s and '40s, two new machines
were commonly used to extend life.
We got the defibrillator that could restart the heart,
and the iron lung, followed by the respirator,
that could pump the lungs with air.
At around the same time,
we used another machine, the EEG,
to study electrical signals in the brain.
The brain will flatline within two to 20 seconds on an EEG
once the heart stops beating.
Alex: So, if each of these organs was not required
to be working all the time for you to be alive,
maybe we have to start thinking about death differently.
In 1978, President Carter mandated a commission
to study and define death.
He hoped to find a modern definition
which took into account recent medical advances.
In 1981, they published their report, "Defining Death."
This lead to the act that hospitals today use,
making the old definition of death obsolete.
The focus shifted over to this-- the brain.
This became the final indicator of whether you were alive or dead.
Now, there are levels to this--
the higher and the lower brain.
Most medical experts today say
that once you lose higher level brain functionality,
which is where logical thinking and personality reside,
you are considered dead.
You are dead even if
some of the lower level brain functions,
those controlled by the brain stem like breathing,
still persist.
So you can be brain dead, but still be breathing,
and have a heartbeat-- everything.
Totally. And that gets into kind of murky territory with how we define dead.
So, to answer what happens when we die,
we have to focus on one thing,
getting as close as possible to the final moments of life
to see what we feel and experience in those moments.
- To here. - The near-death experience.
( music playing )
So I started researching NDEs.
They're in Medieval accounts
and as far back as the writings of Plato.
They're in the artwork of Bosch from 500 years ago.
They're seeing a bright light.
They're going through a tunnel.
They're hearing voices and communicating with the dead.
To help go through the research,
I'm getting Joss to help me dive in.
Hey, Joss.
- I need your help. - Okay.
So I've been looking into near-death experiences.
Maybe there's a medical reason
- why these things are happening. - Mm-hmm.
So, just kind of survey whatever research is out there
- on how legit these experiences are. - Yeah.
Alex: While Joss is looking at NDE experiments,
I'm getting some caffeine and researching the history,
the controversies, and cultural impact of near-death experiences.
First, history.
1975, Dr. Raymond Moody publishes a book,
"Life After Life."
He coins the phrase "near-death experience."
Over the next two decades,
he's established as the preeminent expert on NDEs.
He proclaims the transformative effects of NDEs
and becomes the subject of this 1992 documentary.
Once they come back,
they tell us that they're totally transformed
and they have no more doubt whatsoever.
It's engrained into the public consciousness.
Even celebrities are saying they've had them.
It's just a lot of white light,
and you see people that have passed on and--
When you're in a coma for eight to ten days,
you're basically knocking on the door.
I was talking to my dad.
I sort of floated into this tunnel.
YouTube data shared with us
indicated that between 2017 and 2018,
views on videos related to death increased by 40%.
So clearly a lot of people have questions about death,
and one of the phenomena they're looking at is near-death experiences.
All right, that's enough internet.
I need to find an actual experiencer and talk to them.
I'm on my way to meet with Tony Cicoria.
He's an orthopedic surgeon
who in 1994 was struck by lightning
and experienced an NDE.
But something weird happened to Tony.
Tony became obsessed with music
and started to play it all the time,
and today he is a renowned composer.
( playing piano )
Tony: It's 1994, I'm at a family gathering
and I tried to call my mom.
I took the phone away from my face.
I was gonna hang it back up,
and I heard this huge, loud crack.
And I saw this big flash of light come out of the phone
and hit me right in the face.
And it just threw me back like a ragdoll.
And I was confronted with myself
on the ground about ten feet away.
And, you know, the first thought
that popped into my head was, "Oh, ( bleep ), I'm dead!"
And I'm looking down at the ground
and I noticed that my legs were dissolving.
You're seeing your body on the ground.
- Yeah. - You're feeling yourself outside of your body,
but you still feel yourself walking and present.
Yeah. Yeah, that was really weird.
I was just a ball of energy.
And right about the time I realized
this is the greatest thing that could ever happen to anyone,
it was like somebody flipped a switch,
and, bam, I was back in that body.
And I was pissed.
Some circuits got fried, and some that got opened,
and I had access to parts of my brain
that I didn't know existed for me.
But then within a couple weeks, all of a sudden
I started to have this insatiable desire to hear piano music.
Being struck by lightning, having an NDE,
didn't give you instant super powers.
I wish it had given me super powers.
I was skeptical.
I was a scientist before I went into medicine.
I-- you know, I thought about things and, you know,
there has to be a structure to follow.
But I'm absolutely certain
that consciousness survives death
and that we keep going through the cycle.
It doesn't seem like you're afraid of dying today.
No. No.
And that's a blessing and a curse.
I think that there's a process that happens
as we approach death.
It's an incredible experience.
It's certainly not something to do
before it's time to do it,
but it also is something to not be afraid of.
Alex: That was great!
I'm about to speak with Dr. Pim van Lommel,
and he a scientist from the Netherlands
who's been tracking near-death experiences for years.
Alex: Hello, Dr. van Lommel.
Yes.
How would you define near-death experience?
I think there's a lot of studies out there
that have tried to prove that near-death experiences
and out-of-body experiences exist.
Have you heard of Dr. Parnia's AWARE study?
- So I asked you to look into this AWARE case. - Yes.
Joss: This was the largest scientific study
of near-death experiences.
I put a little model of their experimental method.
- You made this yourself? - Yeah, I spent a lot of time making this.
- Amazing. - You better like it.
So, this is a hospital room where patients were likely to experience cardiac arrest.
Medical professionals would be rushing in
and trying to resuscitate this person.
And in those rooms they installed a shelf
- near the ceiling - Oh.
and placed a picture on top of that shelf.
And the idea was that if someone was going through an out-of-body experience,
they often claim that they're looking at themselves from the top of the ceiling--
that they would be able to see this picture
and report back what they saw.
During this study period, around 2,000 patients
had cardiac arrests, but only one of them
was healthy enough to explain an out-of-body experience.
But they didn't have a shelf in his room!
So the study was inconclusive on out-of-body experiences,
since nobody could describe the picture on the shelf.
I spoke to a NDE experiencer.
His name is Tony Cicoria.
What does that tell you about how influential these experiences are?
This is definitely not what all of us experience at the end of life,
and I've been looking at this other case
that does tell you what might be happening
at the end of life for all of us.
A researcher up in Buffalo
has been looking at these cases for the past five years.
So you're going to Buffalo.
I'm going to Buffalo.
So after a long trip, we finally arrived over at Hospice Buffalo.
We're good? Thank you.
The thing that makes this facility so special,
is they've been cataloging the dreams
and end of life visions of patients.
So these patients will tell us what they're experiencing
at the very final moments of their lives.
Man: So can we just talk for a second?
We're just filming.
Woman: Oh.
- We can go this way to inpatient unit. - Okay.
...there's little coves where people can hang.
There's an English garden out here,
so we actually push people in their beds outside.
- Hi. - Hi, Helen.
- Yes. Hi. - I'm Alex.
- Great to meet you. - Nice to meet you.
- How are you doing today? - I'm doing very well.
Christopher: You're a good Polish girl, I see.
Yes, I am. Polish and Serbian.
Christopher: Have you been having unusual dreams at all?
- No. No, nothing. - No, nothing.
It tends to come as people are closer to dying.
But she's too-- you're too healthy.
You've got time.
I did the first study that attempted to quantify
what happens to people at the end of life
by asking patients directly, you know,
"What is it you're experiencing?",
every day until death.
And, so attempted to put definition
around what people were feeling or experiencing as they were dying.
It went like fire around the world.
A doctor at a hospice in Buffalo
has been studying this for years.
Man: He and his team have documented 1,400 cases.
He says the dreams are comforting to the dying.
Christopher: "New York Times,"
"Huffington Post" a couple of times.
Ireland, China, India, you name it, been there.
- And it just keeps growing. - What did you start to discover
- when you were looking at the research? - Well, it was remarkable.
People were having these very intense experiences.
We call them dreams
because it's the only reference point we have.
But the thing we hear most common from patients is,
"No, no, you don't understand. This is different
than any other dream I had. This happened."
When I woke up I-- it was like they were there,
you know, all three of them together. And it was nice.
The vast majority of people, greater than 80% if you ask them, you know, for weeks--
- 80%? - Yeah, at least having one experience
that was distinct and different from normal dreaming.
Heightened acuity, clear thinking.
In fact, half the people said they weren't asleep.
And in terms of themes, far and away it was seeing the deceased,
some living a past meaningful experience.
I'm back in the service.
I'm at Fort Devens up in Massachusetts.
You know, when you dream, you kind of put things together and it's all a fog?
- Right. - That's not what happens.
This is recalled as though it's a lived event.
I was laying in bed
and people were walking very slowly by me.
My mom and dad were there.
My uncle.
Everybody I knew that was dead was there.
There's this kind of paradox where you're physically dying,
but inside you're very much alive and feeling.
You know, we all have wounds for having lived,
and they just seem to kind of get addressed.
I can't say that my mother and I got along all those years,
but we made up for it at the end.
Woman: Paul is my dad.
He was 82 when he passed away
about six and a half years ago.
There was this study going on
and we were looking into dreams and dying and so forth.
He, of course, said yes.
They were forming this company that were gonna oversee.
A new company.
And the guys are all young.
They're like I remember them, and I'm old.
And I'm trying to tell them,
"Guys, I've been here, I've done this,
- I'm not gonna do it again." - ( chuckles )
Do you think that he was okay with death when it finally came?
I think he had come to grips with death.
He took comfort in the dreams that he had.
I think sometimes in his dreams
he was kind of wrapping things up,
like getting closure with his buddies in the service.
He was not afraid.
You know, it was-- this was good.
Christopher: Dying's a process.
We tend to view death as that last gasp,
that grabbing of the chest, what have you.
Most dying is less dramatic.
It's quieter. It's gentler.
It's more natural.
Alex: Dr. Kerr's studies suggest
that the majority of the dying
may eventually have ELDBs.
In his 2014 study,
he found that more than 80% of his patients
had these vivid experiences.
This isn't just happening in America.
These stars represent a few of the areas
where ELDBs have been recognized.
A Swiss study found nine out of ten patients in palliative care
experienced these very real dreams and visions before dying.
Tony: What happens when you die is you will experience
absolute love and peace.
It's gonna be an earthshaking feeling and freedom.
Christopher: It tends to bring folks this comfort or closure.
They're made whole again.
So, of course, there's more research to be done.
But maybe our brains, faced with the specter of no longer existing,
are stepping in to prepare us at the end
by revealing what life was all about.
And if that's the case, we don't need to be afraid,
because if we're lucky, we'll be ready.
Helen: Everybody dies.
We just don't know where or when or how.
But I'm 92, so I think it's time for me to go.
This is a copper casket.
- Truly copper. - Wow, it's like memory foam.
( laughs ) Sorry to laugh.
- Almost like a really soft mattress. - It's a mattress.
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What Happens When We Die? - Glad You Asked S1

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呂嘉濠 2020 年 1 月 19 日 に公開
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