Near death experiences and OBEs

13 Jun

Hello, thanks for your comment. Although I was asked to appear on This Morning a few years ago I never actually did appear because I was unable to get time off work at short notice.

Yes, near-death experiences and out of body experiences are fascinating experiences and certainly make you think. I used to think I could explain them as hallucinations but having studied them for the past 16 years I realise that I have to be more open minded.

There was one man in my study who reported a very accurate OBE and correctly described what the doctor, nurse and physiotherapist did while he was deeply unconscious. I know it was correct because I was the nurse who was looking after him at the time.

11 Responses to “Near death experiences and OBEs”

  1. Bob June 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I have seen you on television talking about NDEs.

    If it was not This Morning what was it? It probably does not matter, the information about near death experiences and out of body experiences is fascinating.

  2. Tim July 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    There is no satisfactory sceptical explanation that even comes close to accounting for the NDE. All the solid research is piled high on the side of ‘believers’ (as we are rather unfairly known ) and yet most people think it is exactly the reverse.
    If the mind can make absolutely lifelike models of reality (the sceptical explanation for OBE’s ) then why can’t it do this in a normal state of mind.

    Remember, the patients have the unshakeable conviction that they have actually seen themselves and the events around them when they were unconscious.
    So if the mind can really do this, it should be able to produce other completely lifelike scenarios, for instance… people auditory information and tactile stimulous (sand through the fingers) about a beautiful holiday destination— should produce the same conviction that one has actually visited that destination. Thereby saving oneself an awful lot of money.
    Alas, the mind model only works either when the brain isn’t working, or at a some time afterwards when it is just back on line. πŸ™‚

    Sceptics don’t have to go into too much detail, though.

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      Hi Tim, thank you for your very valid and important comment. I think NDEs and OBEs conflict so much with the current worldview that the most logical first response to them is to deny their validity and refer to them as hallucinations or mind models etc. However, now that so many people are reporting these experiences and that more research, especially prosepctive hospital research, is being conducted it is showing that NDEs and OBEs can no longer be dismissed in an off hand way.

      I must admit when a patient told me of her NDE when I was a student nurse, at the time I just thought it was some sort of hallucination or that she’d had too much diamorphine before she had a cardiac arrest – I didn’t even question her further about her experience. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realised the significance of what she had told me. However having had the benefit of 21 years working as a nurse (17 of those in intensive care) as well as undertaking my doctoral research into NDEs and conducting a five year prospective study at the intensive therapy unit, I now think differently as I have nursed patients in my care who later reported NDEs and OBEs which could not be explained away.

      The explanations that NDEs are due to drugs, anoxia or mind models are logical arguments but in light of prospective hospital research they are not adequate explanations for NDEs / OBEs.

      It is very important to investigate NDEs from all perspectives and explore all possible explanations and to investigate them with an open mind. In order to have a full explanation for the NDE and the full range of complexities that these experiences encompass there must be a balanced way to investigate these further.

  3. Tim July 20, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Thanks for the reply, Penny.

    I think psychologists should be open to the possibility that something IS leaving the body. This is the best match with the data by far and the only objection that stands in it’s way is, ” ‘That’… can’t happen ”

    How odd that the people who actually experienced the event are over-ruled. Everyone one of them an unreliable witness, fooled by their own brains πŸ™‚
    It doesn’t make any sense.

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 20, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

      Hi Tim,
      You raise some very important points.

      I think with the increasing amount of data that is being gathered that we do need to look at other possibilities. Clearly these experiences occur and to those who have an experience there is no doubt in their mind that it really did happen. Many people I have spoken to described a heightened state of consciousness and described their NDE as ‘realer than real’. Just because these experiences don’t fit in with the current belief system is no reason to dismiss them just because some people believe ‘that… can’t happen’.

      I think this is a very exciting time to be doing this kind of research because we are learning more about consciousness as the research progresses. The more we learn, the more likely it is that more people will look at NDEs in depth rather than just take them at surface value. The NDE is a very complex phenomenon and are far more than the journey towards the light and meeting deceased relatives etc – many NDErs are left with a wide range of after effects which are very difficult to explain and understand within the current belief system that we have.

      It seems that we are on the threshold of making new discoveries about consciousness. If we think back to think back to the 16th century when Copernicus proposed the theory that the sun was the centre of the universe and not the earth he was laughed at and considered a heretic because it conflicted so much with the worldview at the time. It was many years after his death that his theory was confirmed. I think we are approaching a similar point with regards to our understanding of consciousness.

      • Tim July 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

        I agree, Penny. It is very exciting, I just don’t get why everybody isn’t excited about it. It’s not as if it’s bad news but you still can’t freely talk about the subject in the pub and not expect someone to look at you as if your crackers πŸ™‚

        By the way, if you have sky TV (I expect you will have ) on friday night (i think) at nine ‘o’clock on discovery channel 501, ‘Surviving death’ recounts the experiences of three exceptional cases, one of them being that of Ward Krenz of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who was underwater for two hours after crashing into a lake. He survived because of the chilling effects of the cold water on his brain…and he did have an NDE but he has been reluctant to say much about it so far, other than ‘death is a beautiful experience.’

        I hope he opens up a little bit. Thanks for listening, regards, tim

      • Dr Penny Sartori July 21, 2011 at 10:43 am #

        Hi Tim,

        People are begining to learn more about NDEs and as there is an increasing amount of information about them in the media and on TV I think more people will be less afraid to discuss their NDE. There are so many people I have come across who are really reluctant to talk about their NDE in case anyone else thinks they are crazy – which they certainly are not.

        For a NDEr to be brave enough to discuss their NDE then to have it off-handedly dismissed can be really detrimental to the way the person understands and integrates their NDE into their life. It is so important that they are taken seriously.

        Many of the case histories that I have written about in my forthcoming book have developed over many months (and years in a few cases) of emails, phone conversations and meetings. Some people have been reluctant to reveal all about their experience because in some cases it is so deeply personal to them and also because some of what they experienced was so incredible and overwhelming to them that they didn’t think others would believe them.

        I think attitudes are changing for the better and it’s really great that NDEs are now being taught in schools and colleges which gives the future scientists and researchers a different perspective to people who have never heard of NDEs.

        Thanks for the info on the Discovery Channel documentary. I will post a comment to alert others who will be interested.

  4. Tim July 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    ‘ … what they experienced was so incredible and overwhelming to them that they didn’t think others would believe them. ‘

    Yes and what kind of purely brain based physiological experience can be as powerful and life changing ? Some drugs might astound you for a short while, occasionally a dream might be remembered, thrill seekers ( sky divers, climbers etc ) claim to gain insights into something bigger but people who have had a deep NDE can be completely transformed ( as you well know of course ) in a period of a few earthly minutes. Astonishing, really.

    Thanks for the tip about the tv programme. I will be watching. regards tim

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

      Yes, the way people are transformed by their NDE is one of the complexities of the whole phenomenon. I think it was Professor Bruce Greyson (or maybe Professor Kenneth Ring) who reported the case of a gang member who terrorised others for years then had a NDE which completely changed his life. The ex-gangster has now devoted his life to going into schools to warn against the dangers of such a lifestyle and how we should respect each other etc.

      NDEs are so important and not only can they transform people who have NDEs but they can also have that effect on those who familiarise themselves with and study NDEs – I write about this in my forthcoming book. To me NDEs are truly inspiring and something we can all learn a great deal from. Imagine if everone had a NDE and was transformed in such a way as the ex-gangster I’ve mentioned above. The world would become a very different place – this is one of the things that continues to inspire me to learn more about this fascinating subject.

  5. Tim July 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I think people probably would be nicer to each other if as a whole everyone could see the bigger picture. The win at all costs, look after number one, grab what you can and run mentality that dominates at least the western world would seem a bit pointless.

    I don’t think it’s going to be easy though to get these new ideas ( lessons from NDE’s ) across. Many academics are absolutely wedded to materialism, just as much as any religious person is wedded to his/her religion.
    They don’t want to know, hence their desperate attempts to explain it all away as brain function. I can understand that, too. All those years of work and all those textbooks would become worthless in a way.

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 21, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      Yes, it is quite a task to get these lessons across. It would be great if people could sit with NDErs and listen to them describe their experience because it really has much more of an impact than just reading about NDEs. I think for me, the fact that I did research in the ITU where I was working really opened my eyes and I had no option but to be more open minded.

      Our science has served us very well but it is very apparent that the current beliefs that consciousness is created by the brain needs to be revised and expanded and we need to explore other possibilities. After more than 30 years of research into NDEs the full range of complexities that NDEs encompass simply can’t be explained by the current scientific beliefs.

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