Light and Death: One Doctors Fascinating Account of Near-death Experiences

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The scientific community remains divided on the matter, with skeptical scientists believing there to be a biological explanation for the phenomena, [1] while more paranormally inclined scientists claim these experiences to be evidence of a spiritual world. Many are fascinated with the prospect of NDEs being a glimpse into the afterlife. According to a Gallup poll, approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience.

The phenomenology of an NDE usually includes physiological , psychological , and alleged transcendental affects. However, some people have also experienced extremely distressing NDEs, which can manifest in a forewarning of "Hell" or a sense of dread towards the cessation of their life in its current state. According to the Rasch Scale, a "core" near-death experience encompasses peace, joy, and harmony, followed by insight and mystical or religious experiences.

Clinical circumstances that are thought to lead to a NDE include conditions such as: cardiac arrest, shock in postpartum loss of blood or in perioperative complications, septic or anaphylactic shock, electrocution, coma, intracerebral haemorrhage or cerebral infarction, attempted suicide , near-drowning or asphyxia, apnoea, and serious depression. In contrast to common belief, attempted suicides do not lead more often to unpleasant NDEs than unintended near-death situations.

Today the association includes researchers, health care professionals, NDE-experiencers and people close to experiencers, as well as other interested people. One of its main goals is to promote responsible and multi-disciplinary investigation of near-death and similar experiences. Later researchers, including Bruce Greyson, Kenneth Ring, and Michael Sabom, introduced the study of near-death experiences to the academic setting.

The medical community has been somewhat reluctant to address the phenomenon of NDEs, and money granted for research has been relatively scarce. Other contributors to the research on near-death experiences come from the disciplines of medicine, psychology, and psychiatry. Greyson has also brought attention to the near-death experience as a focus of clinical attention, [18] while Morse and his colleagues have investigated near-death experiences in a pediatric population [19] [20]. Neuro-biological factors in NDEs have been investigated by researchers within the field of medical science and psychiatry.

In the s, Dr. Strassman advanced the theory that a massive release of DMT from the pineal gland prior to death or near-death was the cause of the NDE phenomenon. Only two of his test subjects reported NDE-like aural or visual hallucinations, although many reported feeling as though they had entered a state similar to the classical NDE.

Light and Death

In the past a considerable amount of research had been accomplished but often with only a few NDEs. Case studies of NDEs are not easy to find. Although some research indicates that as much as 5 percent of the U. An unfortunate reason NDErs might not share their stories is the attitude of many in medicine toward these experiences.

I have heard many heartbreaking stories from NDErs who shared highly accurate observations of their own resuscitations, only to have physicians dismiss their experiences as insignificant. I spent many years serving on the board of directors of the International Association for Near-Death Studies.

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During our meetings I heard far too many stories of the problems NDErs encountered when they tried to tell their near-death experiences to the medical staff. One of the classic stories was a patient who told his doctor about his NDE in front of several nurses. It was just fantasy. We hear about these events all the time from patients. Doctors like him live in fantasy. This was one way in which taking case studies over the Internet was superior to interviewing people directly.

People who have these intimate experiences are sometimes reluctant to be interviewed in person and in a formal way about their NDE. Responding to an Internet survey, by contrast, offers the NDEr a chance to share these remarkable events as if they are talking to themselves. Rather than being forced to overcome any discomfort they might have with an interviewer, they are comfortably recounting their own story privately, by themselves. They also can take as much time as they want.


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Many NDErs shared their appreciation with me after they took the survey. They found the survey helped them to accurately and comprehensively convey their experience. This is why I felt and still do that an Internet survey is more effective in many ways than a face-to-face interview. For example, how could I tell for certain if the stories being told were valid? I pondered this question a lot and decided to rely on the tried-and-true scientific method of redundancy.

Redundancy in interviewing means asking the same question or questions that revolve around the same concept several times in slightly different ways. For instance, in the demographic portion of the questionnaire, there is a box to check if the person had an out-of-body experience. Later, after large numbers of NDEs were shared, I was impressed at how consistent the responses were to the redundant questions. Importantly, many studies have directly compared the reliability of Internet surveys with the more traditional pencil-and-paper surveys by studying groups of people who took surveys with both methods.

The consensus of these studies is that an Internet survey is as reliable as the pencil-and-paper survey method.

Symptoms of a near-death experience

I already knew I needed to listen carefully to the near-death experiencers, so it made sense to ask the NDErs themselves how accurate they thought the NDERF survey was. Finally, my background as a physician helps me determine if a life-threatening event actually happened. I use the Karnofsky scale, which is a medical scale widely used to measure closeness to death.

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Karnofsky scores range from no physical compromise to 10 moribund to 0 clinically dead. I can also determine if the medical events described in the NDEs are medically plausible. In the early days of the website, I was concerned there might be frauds or pranksters claiming to have had a near-death experience. I am glad to say this is very rare. For one thing, there is no incentive — financial or otherwise — to spend a substantial amount of time filling out the lengthy and complex survey form in order to claim a false NDE.

Eventually, those trying to submit a falsified NDE discover how difficult it is to respond to a detailed survey if they have never had such an experience. In over ten years, we have uncovered fewer than ten clearly fraudulent accounts submitted on the NDERF survey form and have removed them promptly from the website and database. I was also concerned that there might be copycat accounts, in which all or part of an NDE would be copied or plagiarized from another source. This has happened, but again very rarely. When it does, readers of the website report the copycat account, and we remove it from the site.

I had other concerns too. Near-death experiences are complex and might be difficult for some to express in words. It is not uncommon to hear an NDEr describe their experience as being, well, indescribable. I was concerned that many people might find it impossible to express what happened.


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Are NDEs generally ineffable? Was the questionnaire too long? Did NDErs really want to share their experience with the world? Would people trust a site like this? I had not spent money on publicity for the site.

Several months later, by monitoring the Web traffic, I could tell that the site had been visited by relatively few. Our search engine ranking was a pitiful Had I wasted hundreds of hours to accomplish nothing? Humbled, I continued to work diligently on the site. By now I had told several friends about the site and shared my concerns that few people were actually visiting it, let alone filling out the questionnaire. We like to start with a little more science than that.


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  8. As a result, I still cringe a little whenever I hear this Hollywood aphorism. However, I continued to build the site in hopes that, yes, they would come. And finally, come they did. I was jubilant. With all the effort I had put into the site, I was now going to have information about NDEs from the source — people who had the experiences! As I read them it started to become obvious to me that the NDEs were real.

    I could see the same pattern of elements that Dr. Moody and other researchers had outlined in their work, including such elements as consciousness occurring apart from the body at the time of a life-threatening event. Reading these early case studies was exciting beyond my wildest dreams.

    The Near-death experience research: time to shake the foundations? | The BMJ

    His injuries were severe enough to fracture his face and sinus cavities and to break his jaw. Badly hurt, he sat on wet grass near the destroyed vehicle and then drifted into unconsciousness. As you read this, note the calmness with which he describes his experience as well as the presence of a very powerful out-of-body experience that seemed to indicate to him that all would be well in his life despite this near-fatal accident.

    I was in a severe automobile accident several years ago. The steering wheel smashed my face. The accident happened in a rainstorm, and I ran off the road and hit a tree. For a while after the crash I felt nothing, and then the pain started to burn in my face.