The phrase 'near-death experience' refers to a personal experience that is associated with an impending eventuality―death and dying. It is shared by people who have a narrow escape from death. Many of them have the experience on the operation table or hospital on being pronounced 'clinically dead'. There are others who disclose the experience while deteriorating in health to the point of 'no return', like in the case of cancer or a fatal accident.
There are people who have gone on record to prove the phenomena. They have shared near-death experiences that involve rare sensations, such as detachment and levitation from the physical self, and a feeling of serenity. There are also experiences that tell of absolute dissolution. A number of people who have experienced the phenomenon speak of a bright light, which many interpret as God. And then there are some people who claim glimpses into the life after death.
The experiences of all the people on record follows a certain pattern. It begins with noise and the sense of being dead. This is followed by a sense of calm and serenity. The next feeling is that of floating―leaving the physical self behind. Many talk about floating within a blue tunnel and seeing a bright light at the end of it. They claim to meet deceased relatives within the tunnel. Some even see and speak to spiritual figures or deities or the god they believe in. They also confirm to a review of their own lives before reaching the boundary. Thereafter, there is a feeling of returning to the body and warmth.
Analysis of such experiences also reveals the feeling of peace, harmony, and a lot of insight. People have confirmed to spirituality via mystical and religious experiences, and an awareness of 'a different place and time'. Many of these experiences have been proved.
Science Vs. Paranormal - The Debate
The scientific community believes that the experiences are hallucinations. On the other hand, specialists dealing in paranormal phenomena believe them to be the evidence of afterlife. Near-death experiences are a phenomenon studied in psychology, parapsychology, and psychiatry.
Science analyzes such experiences as the body's reaction to a heart attack and the subsequent shock. This is mainly due to the probable postpartum loss of blood and complications that are perioperative. They are also seen as the result of electrocution or a pre-coma phase. Patients who have reported such experiences have been diagnosed with intracerebral hemorrhage, asphyxia, serious depression, and apnea. The crucial experience involves the ability of the patient to hear the doctor or nurse proclaiming him or her dead. The resultant subjective impression results in the unintended near-death experience.
Psychiatrists believe that these are a series of physical responses, either to drugs and medications or circumstance and environment. Critics argue that neurobiological stress that results from a near-death situation like in a fatal automobile accident leads to the phenomenon. There is research being done on the brain's episodic memory to envision prenatal experiences. The research involves a search for a coping mechanism from a relatively potential fatal situation.
Many psychologists and those pursuing the study of the paranormal, recognize the effect of psychopathological symptoms, but focus on the translation of the experiences of the 'reanimated'. The primary focus of such study is the damage to brain power, and the influence of a person's religious and cultural beliefs in a near-death situation.
The study of NDE, or near-death experiences, is mainly to promote a multi-disciplinary investigation of such a phenomenon. The medical community has been reluctant to address the phenomenon, and so has the general academic community. Nevertheless, the development of the weighted core experience index to measure the depth of such experiences has generated new interest. The resultant NDE-scale helps differentiate between true NDE and syndrome.
Medical science and psychiatry research has come up with neurobiological factors that are responsible for the experiences. This study emphasizes on a foundation that is naturalistic and neurological in nature.
A number of scientific journals that have been published, include:
- Journal of Near-Death Studies
- British Journal of Psychology
- American Journal of Disease of Children
- Death Studies
Science is now probing into whether or not people without any brain activity or heartbeat have NDE and related visual perceptions.
Some Accounts That Defy Science
A woman was able to accurately describe a surgical instrument she had never seen. She was also able to share a conversation that took place while she was under general anesthesia.
A patient asked a nurse to return his dentures that she had removed pre-surgery. It is difficult to explain how the unconscious patient could recognize the nurse later.