A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

When Rats Have a Near-Death Experience

rat-081313In the last few moments before he died, according to his sister, Steve Jobs looked around the room at the people who were with him, then looked beyond them and said: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

What happens in those last moments, and in those near-death experiences (NDE)? What happens when we go through a tunnel and see the light, but then feel directed to return and continue our lives?

A group of researchers say they’ve been lifting some of the mystery that surrounds these NDE’s. But rats had to pay the price for our curiosity.

The study involved recording the electrical nerve impulses of rats while their hearts were being stopped. Within 30 seconds after suffering a cardiac arrest, all the animals displayed a short-lived surge of widespread, highly synchronized brain activity.

According to Dr. George Mashour of the University of Michigan:

“We were surprised by the high levels of activity. At near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting that the brain is capable of well-organized electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.”

Dr. Jimo Borjgin, also from the U. of M., added that “it provides the first scientific framework for the near-death experiences reported by many cardiac arrest survivors.”

Dr. David McGonigle, of the University of Cardiff, on the other hand, says it doesn’t tell us very much at all. He told the Daily Mirror that “it seems unlikely that near-death-experiences would necessarily be similar across species.”

All we’ve really gathered, in fact, is that the brain can be highly active after the heart has stopped. But we already know that as a person dies, different parts of the body shut down at different stages.

Which takes us to the question of whether this kind of experiment is basically any different from kids doing something unpleasant to helpless animals “just to see what happens.”

In our so-called enlightened society, does curiosity still have to kill the rat?Then again, if we seriously want to know what happens in the brains of humans when they’re passing through that final “Oh wow” moment, there’s a really simple way to find out. Just find some human volunteers who are willing to devote the last few hours of their lives to science, and then wire them up. 

Approximately 39 million humans die every day. Many of them might be happy to volunteer their last few hours for the sake of probing what, for many, is the gateway to the afterlife. Maybe Steve Jobs, an insatiably curious and adventurous person, would have been up for such an experiment.

Come to think of it, since the State of Texas continues to execute, on average, one person per month, perhaps a few of these convicted murderers could be offered a few extra months of life in exchange for participating in a study of “near”-death experiences on their last day. (Maybe they could get one of those medieval Catholic indulgences, too, to help them on their way.)

Instead, we kill and maim tens of millions of animals each year in laboratories in this country alone, while learning little from it, and barely giving a thought to the lives we snuff out. 

In all the news reports of this latest atrocity, has there been even a word of appreciation, of interest, of any concern at all for the animals who were born, lived, and died for the sole purpose of being wired up and then killed – just to satisfy our curiosity?

When we talk sanctimoniously about the “sanctity of life,” does that still only apply to human life? In our supposedly enlightened society, does curiosity still have to kill the rat?