"Sometimes machine signals are meaningful, but other times they're just noise," says Tim Lahey, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine as he recalls the last dying moments of his patient.
The incident, which happened in 2015, made him reflect and compare two contending issues: what is the real time of death aside from the medical data doctors declare at the moment of a patient's death.What Lahey is concerned about is the effects of using these machines that determine a person's mortality.How do we actually know if a person is alive or not?Is life dependent on the number of active organs before his body completely shuts down or, are there any other signs of life, no matter how little, after multiple organ failures and the patient is declared dead?
Death has been a religious and philosophical question for some time when one needs a serious matter for contemplation.However is it possible to talk about death in a more practical and technical approach?When does a person actually die?
The way to answer these questions lies in the field of medicine.As much as medicine is dedicated to keeping our bodies healthy, it does not have the responsibility to erase our notion of death.Only that it is one of the avenues where we can approach the problem of death with a possible solution.
As human beings, we have always tried to grasp the best things we can experience in our lives.We have always desired more ways on holding on to the things that we desire.Technology allowed us to do those things and now that almost everyone in the globe is interconnected through the internet, we feel that we are much closer to each other than before.These technological advancements are doing so much for medicine.Machines that aid our doctors conduct diagnosis with precision, prosthetic limbs, cryogenic brain preservation, and stem cell research are among the things that are underway that can possibly lead to the postponement of death, or at least to keep it at bay biologically.
Bioquark Inc., a life sciences company located in Philadelphia aims to "reawaken the dead" using stem cell research to brain dead people.This proposal has received a number of detractors among scientists and doctors along with some ethicists concerning the violation of natural way of living.
Dr.Diana Greene-Chandos, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center says that "I agree stem cell technology in the neurosciences has tremendous potential, but we have to study it in a way that makes sense." Perhaps the project is too ambitious as of yet.The plausibility of the theory may not work in praxis.
"We have little evidence right now, and this is not a commonly employed therapy, but it's a research question," says neurologist Dr.Ariane Lewis of New York University.
With these discussions existing within the field of medicine, the involvement of technology cannot be shunned.Historian Yuval Noah Harari introduces the concept of Homo Deus which is literally "god man." He believes in the future when biotechnology and artificial intelligence will merge and it will make death optional for humans.
AI integration into human biological systems is the key concept of his idea such that we will be able to hack our own beings and transcend nature itself towards a race of super-intelligent beings. "Humans will merge with computers and machines to form cyborgs — part-organic, part-bionic life forms," Harari said.
As our bodies come to terms with the current trend in technology, it still exists outside us.Our smartphones, laptops, and wearable gadgets that amplify our capabilities as human beings are the things that the journalist Mark O'Connell speaks of. "We're already cyborgs, in a sense, because we're in this relationship with technology which is very intimate, " says O'Connell. "Your phone is a cyborg technology, in a way.It's not physically internalized — but the phone is like an extra limb or an extrasensory device," he added.
With these innovations that connect medicine and technology the question of death is now theoretically answerable through a practical and technical approach.However, this trajectory that we are taking is still received with skepticism.
Gods and godesses are said to be the reflection of man's desire to be, which is very telling: the desire that rules over humanity is what we refer to as our deity.Now, biotechnology is at work to make that desire graspable and perhaps Harrari's concept of Homo Deus is something that we will be for many years from now.
These questions, and more importantly its answers, would tests the realms of religion and science again.Perhaps science is proving that advancement in technology could improve our lives better.But the religious aspect of faith is never far from one's make up and character.