Critical care doctor and the director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Dr. Sam Parnia's book, 'Erasing Death: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death,' was recently featured on the Today show.
"The advances in the last 10 years have shown us that it's only after a person dies that they turn into a corpse, that their brain cells start to die," Discovery News quoted Parnia as saying.
"Although most people think this takes place in only four or five minutes, we now know that actually brain cells are viable for up to eight hours ... We now understand that it's only after a person has turned into a corpse that their cells are undergoing death, and if we therefore manipulate those processes, we can restart the heart and bring a person back to life," he said.
Parnia's suggestion is not new, in fact, as researcher Jan Bondeson notes in his 2001 book 'Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear,' "In 1787 the French doctor Francois Thierry published a book in which he stated his conviction that most people did not die until some time after the onset of traditional signs of death."
To make sure that the "dead" had really irrevocably passed on, Thierry suggested that all major cities in France should have special "waiting mortuaries," in which the recently deceased would be laid out in rows on floors or tables and carefully watched by monitors who would wander among the corpses looking for signs of anyone coming back to life.
It was only at the point in which the bodies would begin bloating and putrefying (along with the appearance of maggots and flies) that the corpse would finally be considered dead enough and sent for burial.
Some have suggested that Dr. Parnia is talking about proof of life after death or near-death experiences, but in fact he is simply stating what many doctors have known for decades - consciousness does not suddenly stop when the heart stops beating and the line between life and death remains murky, even today.