From Life to Death, Beyond and Back: Thomas Fleischmann at TEDxTUHHSalon (Transcript)

Ladies and gentleman, I see dead people. What may be a punch line from the film, the movie, “The Sixth Sense” for you, is dire reality for me.

As an emergency physician, I took care of thousands of people when they approached the line between life and death. Many I could rescue from dying, many I could bring back, but I stood next to more than 2,000 humans when they finally crossed the line between life and death, and died. What I would like to do with you today is I walk with you the path from perfect well being in life till death. And then we try to look a little bit beyond death. Don’t be scared, I’ll be with you all the time.

I promise you I will bring you safely back to life. There are many illnesses and many injuries, but, actually, there are just four ways to die, just four ways to leave this planet. What you see are some little lines, these little lines on the right-hand side are the activity level. This is a perfectly normal activity level. This person is alive and kicking.

And then an injury or illness sets in, and this person suddenly dies from one minute to the other. This may happen with a heart attack, and this may happen with a car crash.

The second way of dying is: Someone is perfectly healthy again, and then a real bad illness sets in, and the health condition of this person rapidly and constantly deteriorates. This is the case with fast progressing tumors, for example, with leukemia, with lung cancer, or with pancreatic cancer.

The third way of dying is: A person is once again perfectly healthy, and then another illness sets in, and the health deteriorates. Then our therapy starts, and we get this person a little bit better, but not to the baseline this person had before. And then the illness gets stronger again, and the health deteriorates. Once again we try to help this person, to treat him, and he gets a little bit better, but once again he will not reach his baseline, not even the baseline he had before the last deterioration. And so the circle repeats, and this person approaches death. This is the case, for example, with heart failure. This is the case with liver disease, or with kidney diseases, and some, quite many, tumors.

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The fourth way of dying is different. The activity level is very low. This may mean that this person is immobile, is bedridden, is in a nursing home, may be incontinent, and probably suffers from dementia. This person slowly, slowly, slowly progresses towards death.

Now, let’s have a look. When you proceed a little bit closer to death, what are the signs and symptoms of those people who will die within two days? There is scientific evidence for that. And you see those signs which appear two days before death are very unspecific. At present, we cannot predict correctly which person will die within the next two days, or not, so will recover. We probably can in the future.

We can do this, not by one single symptom, but by a set of symptoms, or even by a lab test. And I leave it up to you whether this is desirable or not. What are the signs and symptoms of those people who, allegedly, die suddenly two hours before their death? 75% of all those who allegedly die suddenly show signs and symptoms before their death. Only 25% of those who die suddenly do not show signs and symptoms before their death. So that means that, at the present once again, we cannot predict who will die within the next two hours or not.

Those are the ways to die. Let’s make a short survey, let’s make an opinion poll here. I would like to see your hands. Who of you would like to die No1, way. No 1? I’m not surprised, I quite often see that. Who of you would like to die way No4? Not so many. Now, problem is, by far most people die this way, by far. The most rapidly progressing kind of way to die is No 4. Not even 10% of us will die No1. Not even 10% of us will die No1.

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So, how we would like to die, and how we will die, is very different. We all have different genders, we have different ages, we have different personalities, and we have different lives. There is only one thing we all have in common: we will die. For everyone of us, the moment will come when our heart stops beating, when our lungs stop breathing, when our brain activity ceases. We are now dead.

Can we look what’s happening to us beyond death? Can we have a glance what happens to us, what we will experience, shortly after we have died? Actually we can. We can look beyond death, because, of all those people we bring back successfully, we resuscitate successfully, 20% in the Western countries, and more than 30% in the Eastern countries, report something to us which we call near-death experiences. Those near-death experiences are reported all over the world, and those reports show striking similarities, and reveal a pattern. This means death sets in, and those people who have a near-death experience, the first phase is: There is a sudden change. And from one instant to the other, all pain is gone, all anxiety is gone, all fear is gone, all noises are gone.

There’s just peace, calmness and tranquility. Some report joy. Quite a number report something startling: there’s an insight. The insight, I am dead now. This is what we call death.

This insight is there without any anxiety. The second phase of the near-death experiences is again a sudden change, and those people report that they’re floating above themselves. They’re floating above themselves, see themselves lying down on the stretcher, see us emergency physicians and emergency nurses trying everything to bring them back. They see from above what we are doing, and they can listen to what we say. The personality of the person who is gone is still the same, but they have left their body.

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