Experiments in Soviet Russia and America have revealed that death is not a sudden jump from life to ceasing to exist. It is not a leap from this world to the other. In other words, biological death of vital organs (damage to organs) is a slow, not an instantaneous, process. Instead there is a prolonged period during which the organs continue to function but on a very low key. It is during this period that the vital organs can be revived through special efforts in the laboratory. Though here too scientists agree that once the lungs and the heart have stopped functioning, the metabolic process continues with great difficulty on account of want of oxygen.
Absence of oxygen literally starves the cells and tissues. They cannot live long without nourishment. The more complicated the structure of the cell, the shorter the time it can survive without oxygen. The nerve cells of the cortex of the brain are the most organised cells in the human structure. Given the normal temperature of the body, these cells cannot survive the failure of circulation of blood for more than three to six minutes. After this brief struggle, they start disintegrating.
The organism feels the impact of their disintegration and starts losing vitality. It starts sinking. It loses its capacity to react to the most effective methods of reanimation.
What are the ways open to scientists to conquer (or at least postpone) death? One obvious way is to create artificial circulation when the heart and lungs have stopped functioning. Cardiac (heart) massage plus artificial respiration are methods of keeping the circulation running. Scientists have invented machines such as the heart-lung machine which can perform the function of these vital organs. But it is very complicated and it needs a large amount of blood to keep it working. Second method is the slowing down of the metabolism of the body.
It is called hypothermia or general cooling of the organism. It is usually brought about with narcotic sleep combined, of course, with cooling of the body. It is done because low temperature reduces the vitality of the tissues and delays the processes resulting in biological death.
Experiments have been conducted on animals in Soviet Russia. The blood of the animal was totally drained off. It was followed by re-animation after ten to twelve minutes. In some cases, the re-animation was started sixty minutes after the heart and the lungs had stopped functioning.
In both cases, the scientists were successful in restoring the vital functioning of the organs. In short, the animals were brought back to death after clinical death had taken place. The Russians also conducted a successful experiment on a monkey, which was revived after six hours of clinical death. After administration of narcotic, the body of the monkey was cooled to 27°C. It was then drained off blood. One hour after, the heart and lungs stopped functioning completely. Clinically, the animal was dead. It remained in this state for twenty minutes.
When its temperature dropped to 23.7°C, the scientists set about reviving the dead animal. They pumped blood into an artery in the direction of the heart and at the same time started artificial respiration. The heart started beating after one and a half minute, after fifteen minutes spontaneous respiration started, and after four hours the animal opened eyes and lifted its head.
It was found that even after these induced periods of clinical death, the vital functioning of the animals could still be completely restored. These experiments also established that as the temperature is lowered, the cells of the cortex and other tissues become more resistant to effects of death.