The Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 5: Evaluation of Premise (A4)

The Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 5: Evaluation of Premise (A4) June 26, 2019

WHERE WE ARE AT

In Part 4 of this series I argued that premise (1c) of Dr. Sean George’s argument is FALSE:

1c. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then he came back to life without any neurological problems. (factual claim)

The data that George provided only shows that he was clinically dead for at least 75 minutes or 1 hour and 15 minutes, but we can revise this premise and his argument to avoid this objection:

1d. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes and then he came back to life without any neurological problems. (factual claim)

A4. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems. (metaphysical claim)

THEREFORE:

2d. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes and then God caused him to come back to life without any neurological problems. (miracle claim)

With this minor change to his argument, the only potential problem with this clarified and revised version of George’s argument would be premise (A4).  So, I will now try to determine whether this premise is true or false.

 

GEORGE’S ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (A4)

Dr. Sean George makes a comment that suggests an argument in support of premise (A4):

There aren’t many well documented cases of patients being clinically dead for so long, returning to life with their memory perfectly intact and without any neurological problems at all. Medically this is impossible; it could only be done by God.  (from: “The day God raised me from the Dead” by Dr. Sean George)

Here is the argument in standard form:

3.  It is medically impossible for a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

4. IF it is medically impossible for a person a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems, THEN only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

THEREFORE:

A4. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

As I pointed out in Part 2 of this series, there is nothing miraculous about someone being clinically dead for over an hour and then reviving and surviving this serious medical event.  In some cases the use of CPR has resulted in people who have been clinically dead for over two hours reviving and surviving.  So, it is NOT medically impossible for someone to be clinically dead for an hour and fifteen minutes, and yet to revive and survive.

Dr. Sean George’s claim, however, is that it is the COMBINATION of surviving after being clinically dead for an hour and fifteen minutes  AND being “without any neurological problems” that constitutes a miracle, and that such an outcome is “medically impossible” in those circumstances.  But there is a basic flaw in his thinking here.  It is SURVIVAL that is the biggest hurdle, NOT avoiding neurological problems.

There is a LOW PROBABILITY of survival for cardiac arrest in general, and there is an even LOWER PROBABILITY of survival after being clinically dead for over an hour, but IF one survives cardiac arrest, then the probability of having a good neurological outcome is fairly HIGH.  Thus, the additional factor of Dr. Sean George being “without any neurological problems” after recovering from being in cardiac arrest for over an hour, only reduces the probability of this outcome by a modest amount.  This additional factor does NOT transform the LOW PROBABILITY of his survival into something that is so improbable that his outcome should be considered “medically impossible”.

Because there are MILLIONS of instances of cardiac arrest around the world each year (about 8 million),  even outcomes that occur only once in ten million instances of cardiac arrest are LIKELY to occur over the course of just a few years, and outcomes that occur only once in a million instances of cardiac arrest are LIKELY to occur just about every year (see Part 2 of this series, where I discuss Littlewood’s Law).  Thus, even if the probability of a cardiac arrest where someone revives and survives after over an hour of CPR and ends up without any neurological problems is very small (equal to one chance in ten million), such an event would NOT constitute a miracle, and should NOT be considered to be a “medically impossible” outcome.

 

STATISTICS ON SURVIVAL VS. SURVIVAL WITH A GOOD NEUROLOGICAL OUTCOME

In cases of in-hospital cardiac arrest (IHCA), the chances of survival (in the USA) are about one in four (or, more precisely: 25.6% survive to discharge).  Of those survivors, 85.9% have good neurological outcomes:

Similarly, in cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), the chances of survival (in EMS-treated non-traumatic cardiac arrests in the USA) are only about one in ten (or, more precisely: 10.4% survive to discharge).  But of those who do survive, about 80.8% have good neurological outcomes:

These statistics on IHCA and OHCA are from the latest annual report by the American Heart Association (“Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update”, see the data in Table 17-2 at the end of Chapter 17).

So, we see that with cardiac arrest it is survival that has a LOW probability, but for those who do survive, the probability is HIGH that the survivor will have a good neurological outcome.  Thus, the additional factor of having a good neurological outcome only reduces the overall probability (of the conjunction of the outcome of surviving with the outcome of having good neurological function) a modest amount.  Dr. Sean George is mistaken in thinking that it is improbable for survivors of cardiac arrest to have good neurological function; the opposite is the case: for those who do survive cardiac arrest it is PROBABLE that they will end up with good neurological function.

 

CASE STUDIES OF PROLONGED CPR

Dr. Sean George would likely protest at this point that both his survival and his ending up without any neurological problems is virtually impossible, because of the long period of time that he remained in cardiac arrest: at least 1 hour and 15 minutes.

It is true that being in a state of cardiac arrest for over an hour greatly reduces the probability of survival; however, it is NOT true that this greatly reduces the probability of a good neurological outcome, in cases where such a person does survive.  It appears that the probability of having a good neurological outcome (given that a person survives the cardiac arrest) does NOT decline rapidly with each additional minute of CPR or cardiac arrest in the way that the probability of survival declines rapidly during with each additional minute of CPR or cardiac arrest.

In a study of medical reports about specific cases of prolonged CPR, it was determined that there was “full neurological recovery” reported in 92.6% of those who survived for at least one year after prolonged CPR (68 survived and 63 had full neurological recovery):

 

This data is from the article “Review and Outcome of Prolonged
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” in Critical Care Research and Practice (Volume 2016, Article ID 7384649).

But this evidence is anecdotal, and it seems likely that it is a biased sample, because a medical doctor is more likely to write up a report on a case of prolonged CPR with a positive outcome (like survival and like full neurological recovery) than to do so on a case with a negative outcome (like death or survival with significant neurological impairment).  Similarly, a reviewer or editor is more likely to favor publication of a report of a case of prolonged CPR with a positive outcome than a  case with a negative outcome.

 

GENERAL STUDIES OF PROLONGED CPR

But there are other studies about prolonged CPR that do not involve such apparent bias in their collection of data.  A study of pediatric in-hospital cardiac arrest showed that the majority of survivors had good neurological function, and there was only a ten percent difference in the portion of survivors who had good neurological function between those who were revived after less than 15 minutes of CPR compared with those who were revived after over 35 minutes of CPR:

 

This data is from the article “Duration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Illness Category Impact Survival and Neurological Outcomes for In-hospital Pediatric Cardiac Arrests” (Circulation. 2013; 127: 442-451.)

Another study of cardiac arrests in adults arrived at a similar conclusion.  While 81.2% of cardiac arrest survivors who revived after less than 15 minutes of CPR had good neurological outcomes, 78.4% of  cardiac arrest survivors who revived after over 30 minutes of CPR also had good neurological outcomes:

 

This data is from the  article “Duration of Resuscitation Efforts and Survival After In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest: An Observational Study” (Lancet 2012; 380: 1473-81.)

So, both in pediatric and adult cases of cardiac arrest, MOST survivors have good neurological outcomes even in cases of prolonged CPR.   The duration of CPR does NOT greatly reduce the percentage of survivors who will have good neurological outcomes.  If a person survives cardiac arrest, then he or she will PROBABLY end up with good neurological function.

 

PREMISE (3) IS FALSE

Based on the above data about good neurological outcomes after cardiac arrest, it is clear that premise (3) of George’s reasoning is FALSE:

3.  It is medically impossible for a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

Because George’s argument for (A4) is based on this FALSE assumption, George has provided no good reason to believe that (A4) is true:

A4. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

Furthermore, because it is clear that the use of CPR sometimes results in people reviving and surviving who had been clinically dead for over one hour and 15 minutes, and because MOST survivors of prolonged CPR have good neurological outcomes, it appears to be the case that (A4) itself is FALSE.  That means that Dr. Sean George’s argument for his claim that God raised him from the dead is an UNSOUND argument, and that he has failed to provide us with a good reason to believe his miracle claim.

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