A report by Adam Withnall in The Independent (7 October 2014) titled, Life after death? Largest-ever study provides evidence that ‘out of body’ and ‘near-death’ experiences may actually be real makes for fascinating reading. Writes Withnall:
There is scientific evidence to suggest that life can continue after death, according to the largest ever medical study carried out on the subject.
A team based in the UK has spent the last four years seeking out cardiac arrest patients to analyse their experiences, and found that almost 40 per cent of survivors described having some form of “awareness” at a time when they were declared clinically dead.
Experts currently believe that the brain shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds of the heart stopping beating – and that it is not possible to be aware of anything at all once that has happened.
But scientists in the new study heard said they heard compelling evidence that patients experienced real events for up to three minutes after this had happened ? and could recall them accurately once they had been resuscitated.
Dr Sam Parnia, an assistant professor at the State University of New York and a former research fellow at the University of Southampton who led the research, said that he previously that patients who described near-death experiences were only relating hallucinatory events.
One man, however, gave a “very credible” account of what was going on while doctors and nurses tried to bring him back to life – and says that he felt he was observing his resuscitation from the corner of the room.
Direct evidence of perception in the absence of a functioning brain
“So, how good is this evidence?” skeptics may ask. Pretty convincing, actually:
Speaking to The Telegraph about the evidence provided by a 57-year-old social worker [in] Southampton, Dr Parnia said: “We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating.
“But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes.
“The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for.
“He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.”
Nor was this the only experience of its kind. Dr Parnia studied over 2,000 patients from 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria. His findings have been published in the journal Resuscitation.
Of those who survived, 46 per cent (nearly half) had mental recollections of some sort. Two per cent had explicit recall of “seeing” and “hearing” events while out of their bodies.
In fact, there is abundant evidence for the accuracy of reports by patients undergoing near-death experiences, according to an article by Dr. Bruce Greyson, titled, Cosmological Implications of Near-Death Experiences (Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol. 14, pp. 4684-4696).
In a recent review of 93 published reports of potentially verifiable out-of-body perceptions during NDEs, Holden (2009) found that 43% had been corroborated to the investigator by an independent informant, an additional 43% had been reported by the
experiencer to have been corroborated by an independent informant who was no longer available to be interviewed by the investigator, and only 14% relied solely on the experiencer’s report. Of these out-of-body perceptions, 92% were completely accurate, 6% contained some error, and only 1% was completely erroneous. Even among those
cases corroborated to the investigator by an independent informant, 88% were completely accurate, 10% contained some error, and 3% were completely erroneous. The cumulative weight of these cases is inconsistent with the conception that purported out-of-body perceptions are nothing more than hallucinations…
There is one particular kind of vision of the deceased that calls into question even more directly their dismissal as subjective hallucinations: cases in which the dying person apparently sees, and often expresses surprise at seeing, a person whom he or she thought was living, who had in fact recently died. Reports of such cases were published in the 19th century (Cobbe, 1882; Gurney and Myers, 1889; Johnson, 1899; Sidgwick, 1885) and have continued to be reported in recent years (Greyson, 2010b; Osis and Haraldsson, 1977; Sartori, 2008; van Lommel, 2004). In one recent case, a 9-year-old boy, upon awakening from a 36-hour coma, told his parents he had been with his deceased grandfather, aunt and uncle, and also with his 19-year-old sister, who was, as far as his family knew, alive and well at college, 500 miles away. Later that day, his parents received news from the college that their daughter had died in an automobile accident early that morning (Greyson, 2010b).
The case described above is described in Greyson, B. 2010. Seeing deceased persons not known to have died: “Peak in Darien” experiences. Anthropology and Humanism 35, 159-171.
A letter by Bruce Greyson, Janice Miner Holden and Pim van Lommel, titled, ‘There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences’ revisited: comment on Mobbs and Watt (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 16, Issue 9, 445, 06 August 2012) rebuts the oft-cited skeptical myth that research by Mobbs and Watt, in a study conducted in 2011, has completely debunked the claim that NDEs are paranormal:
In a recent article in this journal entitled ‘There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences’, Dean Mobbs and Caroline Watt  concluded that ‘[t]aken together, the scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of the near-death experience have a neurophysiological or psychological basis’ (p. 449). We suggest that Mobbs and Watt explained ‘all aspects’ of near-death experiences (NDEs) by ignoring aspects they could not explain and by overlooking a substantial body of empirical research on NDEs. In a subsequent radio interview, Watt acknowledged that they had avoided looking at any evidence for veridical out-of-body perception, resulting in their being unable to evaluate whether or not there was empirical evidence of anything paranormal about NDEs (http://bit.ly/MITeGP). But if Mobbs and Watt did not consider the evidence for possible paranormal features, then their claim that there is nothing paranormal about NDEs is not evidence-based…
In suggesting that there may be some evidence of paranormal features in NDEs, we are not suggesting that those features are supernatural or beyond scientific investigation. They may be paranormal in the sense of being difficult to explain in terms of the currently prevailing reductionistic framework. But we believe that they are entirely lawful and natural phenomena that can and should be studied by scientific methods, rather than dismissed without investigation.
I have long argued that a prior commitment to materialism is fatal to the enterprise of doing science properly. Materialism closes the mind, by convincing would-be researchers that the big questions have all been answered, and that we “know” where we came from. At last, a few courageous people are doing some research which is “out of the box” – and getting some unexpected answers. Who knows where it will lead?
What do readers think?