There are hundreds of examples in history showing people who got their lives back after having been declared dead by doctors. This HealthHearty article describes a rare phenomenon called the Lazarus syndrome.
Did You Know?
George Washington was so concerned about misdiagnosis, that he had ordered his doctors not to bury him for at least two days after he was declared dead.
Tales of real people who came back to life after having been declared dead by doctors have been a part of medical literature, as they pose a series of questions like when a doctor should certify death, or when should an autopsy and organ harvesting take place!
In medical language, the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at cardiopulmonary resuscitation is described as Lazarus syndrome. It is also known as auto-resuscitation or Lazarus phenomenon. The New Testament describes how Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus, was raised from the dead by Jesus four days after his death. The syndrome must have taken its name from this miraculous story.
There is no legal definition of death as such. Doctors diagnose death according to the guidelines provided to them. When they come to know that the attempts at cardiopulmonary resuscitation are of no use, or when they notice the end of all biological functions, they declare the person dead. Absence of a pulse, heartbeats, pupillary responses to light, corneal reflexes, and motor response to supra-orbital pressure help confirm death. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death.
Occurrences and Likely Causes
News channels and newspapers always describe how a man, woman, or a baby came back to life after he or she was declared dead. It is difficult to believe, but sometimes, all you can do is have faith, because miracles do happen. 38 cases of Lazarus syndrome have been published in medical journals since 1982. Of the 38 cases, 13 had myocardial infarction, and at least 7 had hypovolemia (decreased volume of circulating blood). Doctors have not been able to find out the exact reason behind this. According to some specialists, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) results in excess pressure in the chest. The heart may expand after relaxation of pressure, when the resuscitation attempts are stopped. This may activate the heart’s electrical impulses and restart heartbeat. According to some researchers, hyperkalemia (high blood potassium levels) or high doses of epinephrine may trigger electrical impulses. But as this is not a common condition, exact causes are yet not known.
The Lazarus Effect
Although anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment cannot cure HIV/AIDS, it helps reverse the symptoms and improves the quality of life of the sufferer to a significant extent. So, the term ‘Lazarus Effect’ is often used by medical professionals and government officials to refer to the condition that HIV/AIDS sufferers experience after receiving ARV.
Lazarus Syndrome Cases
You must have watched TV shows based on real-life resurrection stories or the TV film ‘The Lazarus Syndrome’ directed by Jerry Thorpe, which was released in 1978.
✦ The movie ‘The Lazarus Phenomenon’, produced by Johan Sturm in 2006, describes the true story of Pastor Daniel Ekechukwu from Nigeria, who was killed in a car accident, but was raised from the dead after 2 days.
✦ The true story of Ian McCormack, a surfer, diver, and worldwide adventurer, is also explained in this movie. In 1982, Ian was stung multiple times by deadly box jellyfish (one of the most venomous creatures in the world) off the coast of Mauritius when he was night diving. As he lay dying in the ambulance, he saw a vision of his mother. In the hospital, he was life-less for about 15 minutes. During these 15 minutes, he saw a luminous beam of light and heard God’s voice. These experiences are worth watching. Ian now resides in London.
✦ Walter Williams, 78, from Lexington, Mississippi, had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. On 26 February 2014, when he was at home, his nurse called a coroner. He was declared dead by him at 9 pm. But at the funeral home, he was found moving. After treatment, they noticed some improvement in his health. He even talked with his family, but he died fifteen days later.
✦In Oct. 2012, Mrs. Tasleem Rafiq, 52, a mother of four from Reading, suffered a heart attack. Doctors tried to resuscitate her at home, in the ambulance, and also at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, with no success. Her heart had stopped for 45 minutes. Suddenly, they saw her moving, and within a few minutes she was awake. The next day, she was found sitting up and sharing jokes. She is alive and well, but such patients are often left with severe brain and organ damage. They never recover their health.
✦ A 65-year-old man in Malaysia was pronounced dead by the doctors at Seberang Jaya Hospital, Penang. After two-and-a-half hours, he came back to life. Unfortunately, he died three weeks later.
✦ Michael Wilkinson, 23, from Preston, was declared dead in a hospital on 1 Feb. 2009. The reason that was mentioned was ‘a previously undiagnosed heart condition’. All efforts of resuscitation were in vain. Doctors failed to revive him. After around half an hour, medics found a pulse and informed this to his relatives. He was then transferred to the intensive care unit at Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire. He underwent an emergency operation and was alive for two days. He died on 3 February 2009.
✦ On 31 Dec.1996, Daphne Banks, wife of a farmer from Hunting don, attempted suicide by drug overdose. Early in the morning, on New Year’s Day, she was declared dead by doctors at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. At the mortuary, about 34 hours later, an undertaker heard her snoring and she was rescued.
Different cultures are filled with different tales of miraculous resurrections. Some believe in life after death, while others don’t. No one knows what happens one second after death. People have been found looking for an idea for defeating death since ancient times. Although the Lazarus phenomenon or delayed ‘Return of Spontaneous Circulation’ (ROSC) is incredibly rare, the amazing stories and experiences described by people who had been through this have aroused the curiosity of scientists and researchers alike. Scientists are conducting researches to find out what happens after death.
All the cases of ROSC throw light on a contentious phenomenon which raises disturbing questions about how long doctors should wait before declaring a patient dead. When brain scans and heart monitors were not available, people were really anxious about being buried alive. During the Victorian Times, people used to buy safety coffins which had bell pulls, alarms, and breathing pipes. Now, we are lucky that the chances of premature burial are almost nil.