Medicine: Going Gentle into That Good Night

A doctor studies patients recollections of dying

Owen Thomas appeared dead on arrival at the New York Infirmary last December. His heart, liver, intestines and a lung had been slashed in a knife fight. The 20-year-old fish-market laborer had no pulse, no blood pressure and no breath left in a body that was already "very cold to touch," according to Dr. Daryl Isaacs, who was in charge of the emergency room. Yet five minutes later, Thomas' heartbeat was restored, a recovery that Isaacs described as "the most wondrous thing we've ever experienced."

After awakening from eight hours of surgery, Thomas told a story...

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