I saw Flatliners at an impressionable age, and it left me with a real interest in the idea of “controlled dying”. Not in the, umm, icky way, but in the methods used by surgeons to keep people alive as long as possible–even if it technically means killing them.
So when I saw this article about inducing deep hypothermia in cardiac patients to give surgeons more time to finish complex operations, or in cases where the more traditional heart-lung bypass method is unsuitable, I was pretty riveted. To use a word I already use far too frequently (and which in this instance makes a dreadful pun) it’s cool.
Well, it is.
The technique of extreme cooling is fascinating. It takes the moment of death and smears it out. By putting the whole body in a sort of metabolic slow motion it also slows the process of dying, buying clinicians and patients precious time.
But it is a double-edged sword. Cooling to these extremes is about as likely to kill you as it is to cure you and these hazards need to be negotiated.
The idea that the process of dying can be suspended–stretched and twisted and then through skill and medicotechnological jiggery-pokery, actually reversed…
It’s just… well. You know what comes next.