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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

Scientific views of life and death!

Updated: May 21

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

 

Everyone would want to be present at their parents' last moments, but do they say what they want to say before they take their last breath, like in the deathbed scene of a TV drama? Regardless of the cause of death, the answer seems to be "No." In my case, both my parents were cared for at a nursing home in Fukuchiyama City in Kyoto Prefecture, but last year, my father and then my mother passed away. Their cause of death was old age. As the eldest son, I live and work in Shizuoka City, so I could not rush over immediately. Experts in end-of-life care understand that signs likely to appear within hours to days of death include breathing, circulation, blood pressure changes, oliguria or anuria, and stridor before death. During this time, the person's consciousness seems to be gradually receding.


People who have had near-death experiences can tell us what death is like. Things like hearing a deceased relative call them or seeing a flower garden in heaven. There is experimental evidence that can explain this. In experiments on rats, endorphin levels, a hormone that makes us happy, rise in the brain during death. Additionally, in humans, seconds before the heart stops supplying blood to the brain, patients' brain waves show the same pattern as performing cognitively demanding tasks such as concentrating, dreaming, and recalling memories. These phenomena appear to be linked to a decrease in blood oxygen concentration. Endorphins, also known as the running high, may provide a sense of well-being during death or excessive oxygen consumption. In other words, the moment of death does not seem to be accompanied by pain. There is something called a painful ranking of causes of death that doctors ask for. According to this, pancreatic cancer is the most painful. The opposite is the case with old age. This is not the moment of death but the process leading up to it.


There is probably no one who does not feel fear about their death. Religion is the way to deal with this. Every religion talks about life after death. If you believe this, you will feel a sense of relief. A religious view also sees the afterlife as “nothing'', connected to astrophysics. The universe began as nothing 13.8 billion years ago and has continued to expand. Still, the fact that neutrinos have mass means they will eventually contract and finally return to nothing. Even those who are skeptical about religion will be able to accept this kind of view of life and death.




 

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