Some believe these experiences are no more than hallucinations conjured by the brain in times of great distress, while others might think these serve as proof of an afterlife. Published in the journal Resuscitation, a study examining the claims of survivors that had near death experiences suggests there is much more to death than the heart stopping. Death is apparently a process that is reversible after the lungs, heart, or brain stops working. When people attempt to revive someone from this process, it is called “cardiac arrest” whereas if such attempts are unsuccessful, the process is then called death.
People who have experienced a cardiac arrest sometimes report having a NDE in which a bright light is seen, deceased loved ones greet them, and out-of-body experiences occur. This particular research was known as the AWAreness during REsuscitation (AWARE) study. Roughly 2,060 survivors of cardiac arrest from fifteen hospitals were identified in the U.S., Britain, and Australia. Only 39% of survivors that were interviewed could not remember specific details of what occurred when they were unconscious.
These results show that although most people initially have mental functioning, their memory of the event might be impaired after recovery due to the brain injury or sedative medications. Those that had remembered NDEs were asked to participate in another interview. Approximately 9% of survivors had clear occurrences that were deemed to be NDEs, while 46% stated they had a series of death-related memories that did not fall under the category of an NDE. While some people remembered violent and terrifying experiences, others recalled events before the cardiac arrest or thinking of their families.
Only 2% of patients experienced full-on out-of-body experiences. One such survivor’s NDE was recorded, which is important because most NDEs are assumed to be hallucinations that occur before the heart has stopped beating or after it has restarted. Although the brain ceases functioning after 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping, this particular patient was able to see and hear events in their environment for up to a full three minutes after the heart had stopped beating. After awakening, the patient’s recollection of the events in those three minutes were verified by those present. One of the head researchers of this study, Dr. Parnia stated that “while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.”