Are All OBEs Accurate? Some Findings From My Hospital NDE Research

4 Nov

In response to comments on the blog I thought I’d write a brief post about some of the OBEs I came across in my research.

Although there is much documented research into OBEs from the 1960’s onwards it’s only in the past 25 years that research has been undertaken in hospitals. In theUS Dr Janice Holden undertook some veridicality OBE research in the 1980’s in hospital settings which was later followed by Dr Madelaine Lawrence.

In one of the rooms in one of the hospitals of Dr Pim Van Lommel’s study he placed an image that could only be seen from an out-of-body perspective. Targets were also used in Dr Parnia’s study, Dr Bruce Greyson’s study and my own.

In all there were 8 OBEs reported in my study. One of them was clearly a mind model constructed from residual sight, hearing and tactile stimulation as the lady was recovering from anaesthetic. The lady recalled seeing her face with a red tube in her mouth. She did have a tube in her mouth but the tube was blue not red. However, she was also having a blood transfusion at the time and the giving set was in her line of vision and obviously red in colour. So it seems that she could feel the tube in her mouth and see the blood transfusion as she was recovering from anaesthetic.

There was a very interesting case which was accurate but also had one aspect that was that was totally inaccurate. The lady reported events which had happened but she also reported viewing a piece of jewellery on her body which was definitely not there. The OBE occurred during surgery and strict checks are carried out prior to entry into the operating theatre – this certifies that no jewellery was present. However, this lady also reported hallucinations which she later rationalised as hallucinations. She was sedated for a few days after the event so this may in some way have interfered with recall of her experience. In fact, my research found that rather than the drugs creating these types of experience they had an inhibitory effect or turned them into confusional experiences. We need more anomalous cases like this to explore all possible explanations.

With the case of Patient 10 who reported a very accurate OBE that occurred while I was looking after him I’ve tried to explore this from all aspects. It is written up in full in the 16 page article published in the Winter edition of the Journal of Near Death Studies in 2006. I explored the possibility that he could have heard what was going on. He reported seeing the consultant shine a torch in his eyes and Patient 10 reported that consultant had said ‘There’s life in the eye’. The consultant didn’t actually use those words but they were a good description of what he meant. If hearing played such a big part then I would have expected him to accurately repeat the words of the consultant.

With regards to the hallucinations when I investigated what the patients reported it became apparent that they could hear the background noise and staff conversation and this was contributing to their hallucinations as their sedation was wearing off.

For example, one lady was convinced she was on theSwansea to Cork ferry. She could feel the boat swaying. All ITU patients are nursed on pressure relieving mattresses and if you lie on a bed it actually does feel as though you are on a boat, also as her sedation was wearing off she was being looked after by an Irish nurse with a very strong Irish accent.

I think this research is in it’s infancy and a lot more is needed to draw any firm conclusions. Other cases are needed to compare and get a bigger picture of what may be occurring.

The full details of what was reported in my study can be found in my book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study.



15 Responses to “Are All OBEs Accurate? Some Findings From My Hospital NDE Research”

  1. tim November 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    “The lady reported events which had happened but she also reported viewing a piece of jewellery on her body which was definitely not there”

    This is one of the problems with memory, I admit that, and the sceptics I suppose are bound to make a lot out of any discrepancies like these. ‘That report doesn’t count because she got that bit wrong etc.’ Is that really fair though ? Not in my opinion because anyone can mis-remember something…but what about the veridical portion that was correct ? Why should that be discounted if there is no ordinary explanation for how she got the information ? We can ignore such accounts but if we do, it’s only really based on a technicality… and it’s a sick patient we are talking about here.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      I think cases like these just highlight the need for continuing research in this field of study. When analysing my data it became apparent that some of the drugs that we give the patients appeared to be having an inhibitory effect on the recall of the NDE or in some cases turned it into a confusional experience. The sample was small and not many studies have taken this aspect into account so many more cases like this are needed to explore this further.

  2. Tony November 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Thanks so much for posting this. It seems quite interesting thus that those who had memories that were hallucinatory can be timed to have occurred while anesthesia was wearing off while the more accurate account is associated with a time where the patient was in far worse shape. In addition in the latter case he was very adamant that it was a true experience. Fascinating!

  3. burak November 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    hi penny..firstly sorry for my english it is not very well..i saw new book of mario beauregard in harper collins publishers called “brain wars”.it will be released 4/24/2012..he mentions some Irrefutable Proof that Will Change the Way We Live Our you think it is about cool study..

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I will look up Dr Beauregard’s new book. I think he may be referring to the COOL study along with other research he has conducted. He has conducted very important work which is a huge contribution to furthering our understanding of consciousness – I look forward to reading his book.

  4. Tony November 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    Of all veridical OBE’s this one to me is amongst the most fascinating. It fully defies explanation.

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      Hi Tony, thanks for this link. Yes, it is a truly fascinating case and very difficult to explain away. I think the more research that is conducted will reveal more cases like this. We really are living in exciting times because it is becoming increasingly apparent that NDEs have such a lot to teach us about consciousness.

  5. I. G. March 24, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I have just discovered your blog so I am awfully late with my comment. There also is a very strong case from Germany reported my a medical doctor. I have already translated it into Englisch for Dr. Jeffrey Long´s webiste; let me know if you are interested into reading it (I guess I have to provide you with the link as I do not have the document on my computer anymore.
    It is a good think that you adress the “non-accurate” OBE accounts as well. Several have been discussed by Keith Augustine. I absolutely agree that their existence doesn´t make the veridical OBEs any weaker but they clearly need to be discussed!

    • Dr Penny Sartori March 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. I would like to read the case that you translated into English for the NDERF website. I would be grateful if you could send me the link.

      Yes, I think it is important to report the ‘non-accurate’ OBE accounts. From my research it was apparent that there were varying qualities of OBE and these can be studied further by continuing prospective research in the hospital setting. We simply don’t have enough data to discount OBE reports. There are fewer than 10 hospital prospective studies to date so this highlights that it is important to continue wit this sort of research if we are to have a greater understanding of OBEs, NDEs and consciousness.

  6. I. G. March 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I will send you the link to as well as to the “original” German source:
    Please keep on with this very important blog!

  7. E.S July 14, 2012 at 4:46 am #

    Two questions. 1. Have you read the reports of Janet Holden which in a study 106 veridical preceptions, only six were in any way inaccurate? Do you think your research makes these results seem doubtful
    Aside from the two cases you present were any others where there were errors?

    • Dr Penny Sartori July 16, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Ethan, if I am correct, the work of Janet Holden’s that you are referring to was described in Chapter 9 of The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences. She gathered 107 cases of AVP (apparently non-physical veridical NDE perception) from three sources:
      1) books published before 1975
      2) from scholarly and periodical literature and books published between 1975 and 2006
      3) case studies published in scholarly periodical literature or edited books during those three decades

      After undertaking the analysis Holden commented (on page 197) ‘Yet the sheer volume of AVP anecdotes that a number of different authors over the course of the last 150 years have described suggests AVP is real.’

      No I don’t think my research makes these results seem doubtful – the majority of these were cases that were reported anecdotally and not from a prospective study. Prospective studies are concentrated on a specific sample of hospitalized patients and will (hopefully) reveal the NDEs shortly after they have occurred. This gives a fairly accurate way of assessing the frequency of NDEs and OBEs.

      As I found with my research out of the 15 NDErs only 2 of these patients volunteered the information that they had experienced a NDE (which both included an OBE component). The other 13 patients would never have disclosed their experience if they had not been asked if they had any memories of the time that they were unconscious. These 13 patients only disclosed their experiences when they knew that they would be taken seriously and not ridiculed and a few felt that some of the content of their experience was personal to them.

      It would therefore seem reasonable to conclude that the ones that are reported anecdotally are the kinds of experience that have sufficient impact to motivate the person to disclose their experience to others. What I found with my research was a sub-set of patients who clearly had a NDE but were not motivated to report it, or they didn’t understand it or they did not attach any significance to it. It may be that there are far more people who experience a NDE but fail to report it even anecdotally because it doesn’t have the same impact or intensity or depth as the ones that do get reported.

      In answer to your final question – yes Patient 16 had an OBE which was accurately reported except for one detail which was definitely incorrect. She described seeing a brooch pinned to her gown while she was in the OR – this aspect was wrong as strict checks are undertaken prior to entry into the OR to ensure that no jewelry is on the patient. However, this case was also complicated by the fact that the patient was sedated for a few days after returning to ITU and also reported some hallucinations. It could be (as I mentioned in my book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study) that the sedation played a part in recall of the experience. I found that the sedative and painkilling drugs appeared to have an inhibitory effect on the recall of a NDE or turned it into a confusional experience.

      No firm conclusions can be drawn from this as yet but these are things that must be considered in future prospective hospital research.

  8. Andrea December 21, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Do anesthetized patients really count for NDE or OBE? its artificial

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Hi Andrea, yes anaesthetized patients can still have a NDE or OBE. Patient 16 in my study was anaesthetized and underwent an emergency during surgery and she reported a NDE. There is also a very interesting and well known case of a lady called Pamela Reynolds that was reported by Dr Michael Sabom. Pamela’s NDE occurred during surgery while she was anaesthetized.

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