Late last year, the Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on near death experiences (NDEs), and it included an aspect on the phenomenon that I’d never heard of before: near death awareness:
In his book, “Visions, Trips and Crowds,” David Kessler, a veteran writer on grief and dying, reports that hospice patients frequently describe being visited by a deceased relative or having an out-of-body experience weeks before they actually die, a phenomenon called “near-death awareness.” While some skeptics dismiss such reports as hallucinations or wishful thinking, hospice workers generally report that the patients are otherwise perfectly lucid—and invariably less afraid of death afterward.
Mr. Kessler says his own father was hopeless and very sad as he was dying. “One day, he had an amazing shift and said, ‘Your mother was here—she told me I’d be dying soon and it will be fine—everyone will be there.”
The article also said that a researcher, Dr. Sam Parnia, hoped to be reporting “next year” on some interesting near death research:
At 18 hospitals in the U.S. and U.K., researchers have suspended pictures, face up, from the ceilings in emergency-care areas. The reason: to test whether patients brought back to life after cardiac arrest can recall seeing the images during an out-of-body experience.
People who have these near-death experiences often describe leaving their bodies and watching themselves being resuscitated from above, but verifying such accounts is difficult. The images would be visible only to people who had done that.
“We’ve added these images as objective markers,” says Sam Parnia, a critical-care physician and lead investigator of the study, which hopes to include 1,500 resuscitated patients. Dr. Parnia declined to say whether any have accurately described the images so far, but says he hopes to report preliminary results next year.
The study, coordinated by Southampton University’s School of Medicine in England, is one of the latest and largest scientific efforts to understand the mystery of near-death experiences. . . .
Dr. Parnia, currently an assistant professor of critical care at State University of New York, Stony Brook, says verifying out-of-body experiences with pictures on the ceiling is only a small part of his study. He is also hoping to better understand whether consciousness exists apart from the brain and what happens to it when the brain shuts down. In near-death experiences, people report vivid memories, feelings and thought processes even when there is no measurable brain activity.
That last sentence in the reporter’s story is a bit ill-formed logically. (How can people know, exactly, at what moment their vivid experiences occurred? Maybe they occurred before measurable brain activity ceased.)
Still, the doctor’s study—should it be published this year—is something to watch for.
And while we’re waiting for Dr. Sam Parnia, here’s my all-time favorite account of a near death experience (that of Pam Reynolds):