Life after death? Yes, says one doctor
“Human beings die – that’s certain. But death is not the end of life.”
Roll your eyes, skeptics. We’ve heard it before. Spiritualism is as old as humanity, as old as human gullibility. Furthermore, life after death is so desirable that the temptation to succumb to wishful thinking is apt to fog the most objective mind.
The one striking fact about the above assertion is the identity of the man who utters it. Naoki Yasaku, 57, is neither mystic nor quack. He is a doctor on what may well be described as the front lines. For the past 11 years he has been director of the emergency ward at Tokyo University Hospital.
He lives, in a sense, on the border between life and death, treating some 3,000 intensive care patients a year. “I am constantly seeing things that defy scientific explanation,” he tells Shukan Gendai (March 16).
For example: A woman in her 50s was brought in with emphysema. Her symptoms were light and there was no reason to fear for her life. A day and a half later she was dead, however. Why? “Unfortunately, modern medicine gives us no idea.”
As mysterious are patients who defy a seemingly inevitable death and shrug off desperate illness. One such case was a patient whose heart had stopped. At the very least he should have suffered irreparable brain damage. Nothing of the sort – he staged a full and rapid recovery. For that too, Yasaku says, there is no known explanation.
His conclusion: “The body rots, the soul lives.” A believing Christian will say, “Of course.” A non-believer will say it’s the usual religious claptrap. But Yasaku is speaking as a scientist. He may or may not convince, but his views cannot be written off lightly.
He tells of a man in his 50s who, 28 years ago, caused a fatal car crash. In the passenger seat was his sister. The man recalls an ascent from which he looked down upon what was happening on the ground. At a certain point his sister said to him, “It’s time for you to go back.” At that instant he woke up in the wrecked car. His sister lay beside him, dead. Later he told police what he had seen them doing from above. Police confirmed his observations.
“The Japanese,” Yasaku tells Shukan Gendai, “have since ancient time had an acute sense of the spirit world.” Much of that was lost in the postwar rush to material prosperity. Then came Japan’s greatest postwar tragedy – the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, with its attendant tsunami and nuclear meltdowns. “That changed the Japanese view of life and death,” he says. It brought death near, but it also sharpened the sense of life. In the emotional turmoil, people saw that “sure, we all die – but is death the end?”
The uncertainty is healthy, he feels. With the second anniversary of the disaster now upon us, he hopes it will “help us to grasp how rich an emotional source the human heart can be.”