Doctors mostly dismissed such anecdotal evidence as hallucinations, and researchers have been reluctant to delve into the study of near-death experiences, predominantly because it was viewed as something outside of the reach of scientific exploration. But Sam Parnia, a critical care physician and director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, along with colleagues from 17 institutions in the US and UK, wanted to do away with assumptions about what people did or did not experience on their deathbeds. It is possible, they believe, to collect scientific data about those would-be final moments. So for four years, they analysed more than 2,000 cardiac arrest events – moments when a patient’s heart stops and they are officially dead.
Of those patients, doctors were able to bring 16% back from the dead, and Parnia and his colleagues were able to interview 101 of them, or about a third. “The goal was to try to understand, first of all, what is the mental and cognitive experience of death?” Parnia says. “And then, if we got people who claimed auditory and visual awareness at the time of death, to see if we are able to determine if they really were aware.”
Seven flavours of death Mr A, it turned out, was not the only patient who had some memory of his death. Nearly 50% of the study participants could recall something, but unlike Mr A and just one other woman whose out-of-body account could not be verified externally, the other patients’ experiences did not seem to be tied to actual events that took place during their death.
Instead, they reported dream-like or hallucinatory scenarios that Parnia and his co-authors categorised into seven major themes.
“Most of these were not consistent to what’s called ‘near-death’ experiences,” Parnia says. “It seems like the mental experience of death is much broader than what’s been assumed in the past.”
Those seven themes were:
Seeing animals or plants
Violence and persecution
Recalling events post-cardiac arrest
I have one problem with this: You see, people who do not "die" can also go through similar experiences. For example, several people on the "miracle of the Hudson" airplane state they had these types of experiences, although none were sick or dying, just in peril...and presumably their "soul" did not leave the body (which is one explanation of the phenomenum).
And yes, I believe in heaven...and our Native American patients who were dying often saw relatives (they called it seeing the other side). And numerous stories relate how a dying person sees a relative who is there to welcome them home...sometimes a relative they didn't know had died.
Patients who are dying often "say goodbye" before they die.
Similarly, the senile/comatose etc. often "come to" and say goodbye before they die.
And in medical school, we were warned that if a patient didn't want surgery because they were convinced they would die, then don't do the surgery because they actually would die.