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Jason Pontin

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Zombie Dogs

I read today that Pittsburgh’s Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which a dog’s veins are drained of blood and filled with ice-cold saline. Then scientists resucitated the dogs (who had been dead for three hours)…

  • July 1, 2005

I read today that Pittsburgh’s Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which a dog’s veins are drained of blood and filled with ice-cold saline. Then scientists resucitated the dogs (who had been dead for three hours) by reinflating them with warm, living blood. The experimenters claimed the hounds suffered no brain damage, although I am not sure how they demonstrated this - I mean, it’s not like Rover was busy solving quadratic equations or composing sonnet sequences the next day.

In stories of this sort, the word “dead” is often held between the pincers of inverted commas - but on this occasion we can dispense with that convention, surely. The dogs had no heart beat, nor any brain activity. They were dead-dead.

The Safar Centre plans to begin trials on humans next year. They say the first, obvious applications for the technique would be in surgery. Indeed, why not operate on dead people, then bring them back to life? But there are clearly other, more radical applications, too - many of which throw up all sorts of pseudo-philosophical questions.

This is another blow for the concept for the human soul, I fear. Where will that poor, pale thing reside for the three hours, eight hours, or twelve months that its housing freezes on a hospital slab?

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