Dead Certain

Is death reversible?

6380_plasma-dead-certain-313x239.jpgIf you missed SBS Insight on Tuesday 6th August, click here to watch it online...


“If we do get to somebody in time after they've reached that traditional threshold of death, we can bring them back.” – Dr Sam Parnia, intensive care physician.

Colin was watching TV on the couch when he had a cardiac arrest. He was ‘dead’ for at least 40 minutes before doctors finally brought him back to life. 

Cassandra was blue and bloated when she was seen floating in the water at a Sydney beach last year. It’s hard to know for sure, but rescuers say she didn’t breathe for at least 15 minutes before they revived her. 

Both Colin and Cassandra are fine today. 

Medical science is pushing the boundaries of death, with doctors now to able to resuscitate some patients even an hour after they have 'died'.

The consequences of these spilt second decisions can be life-changing – for better and for worse. 

Speaking to people who have ‘come back from the dead’ as well as doctors with conflicting views, Insight examines the latest in medical science and finds out who has the best chance of being revived, and whether we should be reviving people just because we can.



Colin Fiedler

Colin Fiedler suffered a cardiac arrest and was ‘dead’ for at least 40 minutes with no pulse. He became the first person in Australia to be brought back to life by the new resuscitation practice being trialled at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne. Colin didn’t suffer any brain damage





Cassandra Scott

Cassandra Scott had an epileptic seizure while swimming at Coogee beach last December. When bystanders eventually dragged her from the water she had no pulse, had turned blue and was ‘dead’. A lifeguard gave her CPR and an emergency doctor, who happened to be on the beach at the time, gave her a large dose of oxygen. It worked. Cassandra was ‘brought back to life’. She says she “chose” to live and had some self-awareness during the ordeal.




Wendy Veitch

Wendy Veitch’s brother Trevor Dodgson had a heart attack at the age of 51 while at an AFL match. He was resuscitated despite not breathing for 30 minutes. However, he sustained significant brain damage and is now in a nursing home. Wendy spends much of her life looking after Trevor and wonders why he was resuscitated after such a long time. She has told her husband that she does not want to be resuscitated in similar circumstances.




Sam Parnia

Dr Sam Parnia is a British doctor and a critical care physician in New York who specialises in bringing his patients ‘back from the dead’. He says resuscitation techniques are outdated and are wasting lives that could be saved. Sam is also interested in near death experiences. He is heading up a study called AWARE which examines the relationship between mind and brain during death.





Stephen Bernard

Professor Stephen Bernard is leading a new resuscitation practice being trialled at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne. Stephen has looked closely at resuscitation and brain cooling and has spent time in Japan studying techniques there. He is a senior intensive care physician at The Alfred.

Intro_still_-_small_copy.jpgPaul Middleton

A/Professor Paul Middleton is an emergency physician, the Director of the Australian Institute for Clinical Education and the Chair of the NSW branch of the Australian Resuscitation Council. He has been teaching advanced life support in adults and children to doctors, nurses and paramedics for twenty years.


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"My view on resuscitating people changed when my brother, Trevor, suffered a cardiac arrest in the first quarter of an AFL match."

A VICTORIAN man who was clinically dead for 40 minutes has been brought back to life by an Australian-first resuscitation technique.

In an Australian first, the Alfred hospital in Melbourne is trialling a new resuscitation practice to revive patients who have 'died' from cardiac arrests. 

Contemporary extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for adult respiratory failure - life support in the new era

RCT and parallel economic evaluation of conventional ventilatory support versus ECMO for severe adult respiratory failure (CESAR)

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