The best definition of death is when the complexus of activity of brain, heart and lungs ceases to function.  Note the word complexus.  That is the key word.  The brain can stop, as in so-called brain death.  The heart can stop for a while, the lungs can stop for a while, but it is only when all three stop functioning together that we can say that a person has died a natural death.  But wait, some people have resumed activity of the complexus even after some time has passed.  There is no medical explanation for that, no scientific explanation for that.

Wikipedia has an interesting article about premature burial of someone who is not yet dead:


Unintentional live burial

A burial vault built c. 1890 with internal escape hatches to allow the victim of accidental premature burial to escape.

At least one (almost certainly apocryphal) report of accidental burial dates back to the fourteenth century. Upon the reopening of his tomb, the philosopher John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was reportedly found outside his coffin with his hands torn and bloody after attempting to escape.[3]

Revivals of supposed “corpses” have been triggered by dropped coffins, grave robbers, embalming, and attempted dissections.[4] Folklorist Paul Barber has argued that the incidence of unintentional live burial has been overestimated, and that the normal, physical effects of decomposition are sometimes misinterpreted as signs that the person whose remains are being exhumed had revived in his or her coffin.[5] Nevertheless, patients have been documented as late as the 1890s as accidentally being sent to the morgue or trapped in a steel box after erroneously being declared dead.[6]

Newspapers have reported cases of exhumed corpses which appear to have been accidentally buried alive. On February 21, 1885, The New York Times gave a disturbing account of such a case. The victim was a man from Buncombe County whose name was given as “Jenkins.” His body was found turned over onto its front inside the coffin, with much of his hair pulled out. Scratch marks were also visible on all sides of the coffin’s interior. His family were reportedly “distressed beyond measure at the criminal carelessness” associated with the case.[7] Another similar story was reported in The Times on January 18, 1886, the victim of this case being described simply as a “girl” named “Collins” from Woodstock, Ontario, Canada. Her body was described as being found with the knees tucked up under the body, and her burial shroud “torn into shreds.”[8]

In 2005, a body bag was delivered the Matarese Funeral home in Ashland, Massachusetts with a non-dead occupant. Funeral director John Matarese discovered this, called paramedics, and avoided live embalming or premature burial.,[9][10]

Safety coffins” were devised to prevent premature burial, although there is no evidence that any have ever been successfully used to save an accidentally buried person. On 5 December 1882, J. G. Krichbaum received US Patent 268693[11] for his “Device For Life In Buried Persons”. It consisted of a movable periscope-like pipe which provided air and, when rotated or pushed by the person interred, indicated to passersby that someone was buried alive. The patent text refers to “that class of devices for indicating life in buried persons”, suggesting that such inventions were common at the time.

In 1890, a family designed and built a burial vault at the Wildwood Cemetery in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with an internal hatch to allow the victim of accidental premature burial to escape. The vault had an air supply and was lined in felt to protect a panic-stricken victim from self-inflicted injury before escape. Bodies were to be removed from the casket before interment.[12]

There have been enough cases of premature burial for us to be super cautious in accepting anyone’s (including a doctor’s) declaration that a person is dead.

One can only speculate whether or not Terri Schiavo would have eventually recovered from her comatose state; the reality is that she was put to death by her husband who obtained a court order, approved by Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, Florida, directing the doctors to remove her nutrition and hydration, over the period of the next few weeks she died an agonizing death from dehydration and starvation.

One can only hope and pray that Jahi McMath who was declared brain dead by doctors in California and who is now in a comatose state in New Jersey and has been declared alive by doctors in the East will eventually regain consciousness.

The following two stories should cause any serious person to hesitate that medical science is so accurate that we can depend on it to tell us when a person is truly dead, especially if the death is described as “brain death.”


Featured Image
‘The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that – totally alone,’ recalls Martin Pistorius.
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski



Man wakes up after 12 years in ‘vegetative state’: reveals, ‘I was aware of everything’

Martin Pistorius hates Barney. And it’s no wonder why. For 12 years, while he was in a coma that doctors described as a “vegatative state,” nurses, thinking that he couldn’t see or hear anything, played endless re-runs of Barney as he sat, strapped into his wheel chair.

But Martin wasn’t the “vegetable” that doctors said he was. In fact, he could see and hear everything.

“I cannot even express to you how much I hated Barney,” he recently told NPR.

In the 1980s, Martin was a typical active youngster growing up in South Africa. But, then, at age 12, he came down with an illness that baffled doctors, and that eventually resulted in him losing his ability to move his limbs, then to make eye contact, and finally to speak.

His parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, were told that he was a “vegetable” and the best thing for them to do was take him home and keep him comfortable until he died.

Martin Pistorious with his wife Joanna

But the youngster continued to live despite the diagnosis.

“Martin just kept going, just kept going,” his mom said.

Now, in a new memoir, “Ghost Boy: My Escape From A Life Locked Inside My Own Body,” Martin has revealed that, although he was initially unconscious as doctors thought, after about two years he started waking up, eventually becoming fully conscious of everything around him.

Martin’s dad, Rodney, cared for his son throughout the ordeal, and recalls the daily routine of rising at five in the morning to get Martin ready for a day at a special care center.

“Eight hours later, I’d pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set my alarm for two hours so that I’d wake up to turn him so that he didn’t get bedsores,” Rodney said in an NPR report.

Martin remembers, however, that his mom at one point lost hope, and while gazing at her son and thinking he could not hear her, said “I hope you die.”

But he did hear her.

“Yes, I was there, not from the very beginning, but about two years into my vegetative state, I began to wake up,” Martin said.


“I was aware of everything, just like any normal person. Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that – totally alone.”

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With his brain active but his body unresponsive, Martin at first thought he was trapped and would remain so.

“No one will ever show me tenderness. No one will ever love me,” he thought. “You are doomed.”

“You don’t really think about anything,” Martin recalled. “You simply exist. It’s a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish. My mind was trapped inside a useless body, my arms and legs weren’t mine to control and my voice was mute. I couldn’t make a sign or sounds to let anyone know I’d become aware again. I was invisible – the ghost boy.”

But again, Martin didn’t give up, and says he eventually came to terms with his mother’s words.

“The rest of the world felt so far away when she said those words,” he recalled, but then realized that “as time passed, I gradually learned to understand my mother’s desperation. Every time she looked at me, she could see only a cruel parody of the once-healthy child she had loved so much. ”

Eventually Martin’s body began to catch up to his mind and inexplicably began to heal. He learned to communicate using a computer and began to expand his world beyond the confines that had encumbered him.

In 2008 he met the love of his life, Joanna, and emigrated to the UK. In 2010 he started his own business.

He is now 39, is married to Joanna, and lives a fully functional and normal life in Harlow, England.

Martin’s story isn’t as unusual as it might sound. In recent years there have been numerous stories that have emerged of people being declared “brain dead” or in a “vegetative state” who have subsequently recovered and revealed that they were fully aware of what was going on around them.

In one particularly chilling case, a young man, Zach Dunlap, revealed that he was fully conscious as doctors and his family members discussed how they would donate his organs. Only moments before he was scheduled to be wheeled into the operating room to have his organs removed, a family member dug a fingernail under his toenail, causing a sudden reaction. The surgery was called off, and Zach recovered.

Cases like these are fueling a growing debate about the accuracy of “vegetative state” and “brain death” diagnoses.

Watch a trailer for “Ghost Boy,” the remarkable true story of Martin Pistorius here.

‘Dead’ man wakes up in sealed body bag with story of inspirational vision
Posted 1:10 PM, August 27, 2014, by Jeremy Tanner, Updated at 01:39pm, August 27, 2014

Man wakes up


Man wakes up

Valdelucio Goncalves gives a thumbs up after he came back to life and was found struggling inside his body bag. (Globo)

BAHIA, Brazil (PIX11) – A 54-year-old Brazilian man who had been declared dead after a battle with cancer, shocked his family and hospital staff when he awoke inside a plastic body bag.

Valdelucio Goncalves was declared dead at the Hospital Menandro de Farias, located in a metropolitan area of Salvador, along Brazil’s northeast coast.

Suffering from cancer that was already in an advanced stage, according to his family, Goncalves suffered two heart attacks at the hospital and was finally pronounced dead around 11 p.m. Sunday.

“Really I thought he was dead, he looked yellow and had no vital signs,” Goncalves’ cousin Eduardo Valadares told Globo.

His nostrils and ears were stuffed with cotton and his wrists and ankles bound before his body was placed in a sealed bag and sent to the morgue.
Goncalves was declared dead around 11 p.m. Sunday night of major respiratory and organ failure at the Hospital Geral Menandro de Faria in Salvador, Brazil.

Goncalves was declared dead around 11 p.m. Sunday night of major respiratory and organ failure at the Hospital Geral Menandro de Faria in Salvador, Brazil. (Globo)

Goncalves’ niece, Patricia Cintra, says it was at the morgue when her uncle miraculously regained consciousness. When his brother Walterio Goncalves arrived with a change of clothes to prepare his body for the funeral, he noticed the bag moving.

“He called the doctors, when they saw him they immediately brought him back to the hospital room . . . he had been in the sealed bag for two hours.”

Unable to talk because of the breathing tubes, Goncalves immediately wrote down what he experienced:

“I, Valdelucio, saw death at my feet, but my faith was so big that I was able to heal myself. Before Saint Irma Dulce (a Brazilian Catholic Sister), I said: I asked her to grant just one more miracle for me and she listened. I’m just so grateful to the medical staff and my Irma Dulce. Because of everything and for everyone, I’m thankful. I saw my mother saying, ‘Son, stay close with her and you will be saved.’”

Goncalves’ mother had died 18 years before.
Goncalves said he saw a vision of his mother, dead for 18 years, telling him to have faith in the Brazilian Catholic Sister Irma Dulce, renowned for performing miracles.

Goncalves said he saw a vision of his mother, dead for 18 years, telling him to have faith in the Brazilian Catholic Sister Irma Dulce, renowned for performing miracles. (Globo)

The family says they are now planning to donate the money they set aside for casket, $840, to Obras Sociais de Irma Dulce, a group that works to help the poor.

An investigation by the health department of the state of Bahia is also underway as the hospital tries to figure out how such a thing could have happened.

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‘Dead’ man WAKES UP inside body bag at funeral home


Filed in: News

Topics: alive, Bahia, body bag, Brazil, dead, morgue, Salvador, story, Valdelucio Goncalves, wakes up
by Taboola

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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