Doctor Sam Parnia, the head of intensive care at a Long Island, N.Y., hospital, can bring his patients back to life hours after they have died.
The British doctor's patients who went into cardiac arrest last year at Stonybrook University Hospital had a 33 percent chance of being resuscitated. In an average American hospital those odds are only 16 percent, and roughly the same if not less in a British hospital.
In a new book Parnia has written, The Lazarus Effect, he argues that CPR should be done by machines because they are more efficient than humans. He also claims doctors should use a process called ECMO, which cools the body as the patient’s blood is oxygenated. ECMO involves taking blood out of the body and putting it through a machine that removes CO2 and adds oxygen. It is a standard procedure in Japan.
Parnia says his cheap and straightforward methods could save 40,000 American lives per year.
During cardiac arrest, the brain is not receiving oxygenated blood. Brain cells then begin rapid decay. The damage is impossible to fix and recovery is uncertain. While CPR is used in this case, ECMO would allow doctors to keep the patient on the brink of life, while continuing with other procedures that may be necessary. This hybrid method is referred to as ECPR.
"It is my belief," Parnia told the Guardian, "that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more. That is: every heart attack victim should no longer die.
“I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, 'My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened.’ But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed.
“If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases. And the same with infections, pneumonia or whatever. People who don't respond to antibiotics in time, we could keep them there for a while longer [after they had died] until they did respond."
Parnia trained in the ICU at Guy's Hospital in central London. He moved the U.S. in 2005 because the U.K. was reluctant to accept his methods.