Philadelphia-based scientists have received permission to attempt to revive brain dead patients in an undisclosed Latin American country.
A company called Bioquark is determined to revive brain dead patients using techniques such as stem cell therapy, laser therapy, and electrical stimulation. Their web-site gives the impression that they are close to being able to cure many diseases, reverse aging and even resurrect the dead.
Furthermore, an unnamed country in Latin America has just given the go-ahead for clinical trials of the techniques to take place. Previously, the US and India have halted their efforts due to bioethical questions. 20 patients in India were lined up by Bioquark and their Indian collaborators Revita Life Sciences. However, only six months later the Indian Drug Controller General shut them down.
CEO, Ira Pastor, explained that the process would be broken down into stages. Currently, the company is focusing only on the first stage, which they have named the Reanima Project. Their intention with this first round of clinical trials is to “explore technical boundaries of life and death to offer patients and families a 2nd chance.”
The above statement would surely fill grieving loved ones with hope if Bioquark can deliver what they claim. Especially as they have bypassed any animal testing of the techniques.
Firstly, scientists will inject patients with a quantity of the patient’s own stem cells. Next, they will inject a peptide formula into their spinal column. With this technique the hope to incite neurons to begin to regrow.
Thirdly, they use electrical stimulation to attempt to encourage nerve activity. Lastly, transcranial laser devices will be utilized for around 15 days to inspire new neural connections to form. During this time Researchers will observe the patients to see if any activity occurs on the EEG, or they exhibit any “life” behaviors.
Skeptics and ethics
While it sounds like bringing dead loved ones back to life would be a marvelous thing, there are in fact many ethical considerations that Bioquark are overlooking.
In fact, their skeptics have gone as far as to describe such work as trying to create zombies. After all, it is unknown what kind of consciousness will occur in a revitalized cadaver.
The greatest backlash came from a concerned neurologist, Ariane Lewis, and bioethicist Arthur Caplan, who issued an official statement in response to what they consider quackery. Caplan and Lewis claim that Pastor, and founder Dr. Sergei Paylian, are being dishonest with the public. Furthermore, they argue that the public has little understanding of what “death by neurologic criteria” means, and the media has jumped on the bandwagon promising false hope to innocent grieving loved ones.
What is death?
Caplan and Lewis go further to add that there is no science to back the claims of Bioquark. But could there be a deeper reason that these scientists are trying to put a halt to the trials? Giving false hope to loved one’s of the deceased could be considered cruel. However, what seems to be the issue with bringing people back to life? Especially those who may have previously wished that such technology could revive them?
The universe changing cognitive leap humanity would have to make, should Bioquark succeed, would change the definition of what death actually means. Society would need to alter the medical-legal definition of death. Reevaluation of all sorts of ethics surrounding the care of deceased persons would need to take place.
Does this sound just too daunting to the likes of Lewis and Caplan? Or do they have legitimate grievances? It is unknown also what quality of life and level of functionality a revived brain dead person would even have.
There needs to be a consensus over what is a clearly defined boundary between what is mad science, and what kind of science is conducive to the real world.