The Healing Power of NDEs

17 May


In previous posts I’ve mentioned how some people appear to be ‘healed’ following their NDE. Indeed, Patient 10 in the hospital research that I conducted demonstrated such a healing. His right hand which had been in a permanently contracted position since birth is now fully opened – this should not be possible without having surgery to release the tendons which would be in a permanently shortened position.

Below are some other examples of NDEs where people have been healed.

Another fascinating case is that of Anita Moorjani who appears to have been healed from lymphoma after her NDE.

 Thank you to follower of the blog, Tim for alerting me to the following cases which have been posted on youtube. If you click the links below you will see several cases of people who have apparently been healed following their NDE.

 The documentary tells how Will Barton, who fell while attempting to cut the top off a giant tree. He fell, hit the ground and was instantly paralyzed. Dr Henry Grey, his neurologist, felt that his chances of recovery were slim.

Will was on the verge of suicide. Since he wasn’t able to move, he could not attempt it. His depression was so great, that he asked his mother to suffocate him. His mother refused to obey that wish, because of her love for him. Even with family support, his mood did not improve.

Days later, a medical worker accidentally tilted his bed too fast, causing his blood to rush to his head. He passed out, and his heart stopped beating.

Instantly, he went from a dark lonely feeling to brilliant light. He went down a tunnel and was met by luminous beings, some of which were his relatives. Peace surrounded him and he was told that he had a choice. In the presence of such love, he couldn’t give up. He decided to go back to his life and to his body. Will was revived.

He came back, still paralyzed, still with the same bleak diagnosis, but something was different. His NDE had impacted him intensely. His family and everyone around him noticed the difference. Even though he was still paralyzed, he now had a positive outlook. It took years of painful therapy, to make each advancement, but eventually he was able to walk again.

Will attributes his recovery to his family, to their prayers, and his NDE. Clearly, NDEs can affect patients for the better. They should not be ignored. the experience starts at 10.38 and part two follows part three is there as well

  In the following clip Jennifer’s brain appears to have been rewired and her seizures decreased and eventually disappeared:


If just one or two cases such as this are reported then they are very easily dismissed or explained away. However, to me the important thing is that the number of these cases is becoming increasingly reported and cumulatively these cases now appear to be good evidence that something occurs during a NDE that is conducive to healing.


Let’s not ignore these very important aspects of the NDE. These should be scientifically investigated as there is great potential to compliment modern medical techniques which would be conducive to a faster healing process and potentially shorter hospital admission times – something which would be welcomed by most people.

56 Responses to “The Healing Power of NDEs”

  1. Doug D May 18, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Penny, can you say how soon it was after his experience that patient 10 was able to open his hand? In your paper about the case ( you asked him,

    “When you were in this state and not in your body, were there things you could do that you can’t in your physical body?”

    He replied,

    “Well, yeah, that’s what I mean; when I came back down I could open my hand.”

    It looks like he’s saying the healing took place immediately after he became conscious, or very shortly thereafter. Is this correct?

    Thanks for all you do.

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 18, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Doug, thank you for your question.

      Yes Patient 10 said that he immediately realised he could open his hand when he was back in his body. However, I didn’t pick up on this aspect until I did a follow-up interview with him in his home approximately six months later. I only realised about his hand when he misinterpreted one of the questions I had asked. I asked if there was anything he could do while out of his body that he can’t normally do. Some people report thinking of a specific location, such as maybe their workplace or even somewhere like the pyramids in Egypt, and then immediately find themselves at the location they were thinking about. So this is what I was getting at by asking that question. However, he misinterpreted the question and raised his right hand and said something like ‘Oh yes, I can open my hand – look’ and clearly demonstrated fully opening out his hand.

      When I first interviewed him after his NDE he was more concerned with telling me the details of his out of body experience and his subjective experience of going into the pink room and meeting his deceased father and Jesus figure. He hadn’t mentioned his hand at all to me at this time.

  2. Howard May 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Aimee copeland, went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated, no brain damage and able to verbalized now. She is the person in the news who has flesh eating bacteria. She is still fighting for her life but would be interesting to ask her if she experienced anything during the arrest. See if she experienced anything veridical?

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

      Hi Howard, thank you for your comment. I agree it would be very interesting to talk to Aimee Copeland when she recovers.

  3. Tony May 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Penny, regarding patient 10, has a doctor been able to verify his condition with his hand? Is there a physical explanation as to how his tendons would have changed? I think its a fantastic case but there’s so much that can be gleaned from this. For example, if something paranormal occurred to correct his condition then it means the “spiritual” effects the physical or perhaps the mind effects the body (as we see with placebo, etc). But there has to be an underlying physical explanation that one could at least objectively study. Even if we don’t know the mechanisms of how the mind effects the body, we can at least verify how the body changed as a result. If we see that his tendons somehow got longer (assuming that’s what happened) then wow…

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      Hi Tony,
      With regards to Patient 10’s hand there is currently no physical explanation to explain how his hand can now open fully after being in a contracted potistion for 60 years other than to assume that his tendons have lengthened or perhaps become more elastic. In a documentary that was broadcast in Scandinavia last year the physiotherapist who is familiar with Patient 10 even went so far as to say it was a mircale as there is no medical way to explain this.

      Patient 10’s hand has not been formally followed up by another doctor but his medical notes verify that he previoulsy had a contracture of his right hand. Patient 10’s sister has also verified and signed a statement to confirm that he has never been able to fully open his hand prior to his NDE.

      You make a very good point, one which I would like to see more people pick up on. Up until such research has been conducted in a hospital setting it has been so much easier to dismiss or ignore very important cases like Patient 10’s. Hence such cases are never followed up neither are physiological explanations sought.

      It would be hugely beneficial if people could see beyond the bits that don’t fit in with the current worldview and learn from these anomalous healings and try to find ways to emulate such healings in ways that could be applied to future patient care. By merely dismissing and ignoring these cases we are missing opportunities for ways in which healing techniques can evolve.

  4. tim May 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks for the mention, Penny. They certainly are very interesting cases and it’s not really plausible to write them off as coincidences. Just a question about Mike’s hand. In your bio-ethics video ( really enjoyed all the videos) you showed a picture of a contracted hand. It’s not important, but was that Mike’s ?

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

      Hi Tim, yes – in the Bioethics video it is Mike’s hand that is in the photo. He is very proud that I use the photo of his hand in my presentations! There were two photos, one demonstrates the position that his hand was in when he had the contracture and the second is as his hand is after the NDE in a fully open position.

      • tim May 23, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

        Thanks Penny. Well, that is simply astonishing. These things just do not clear up… just like that. I believe that his time in the presence of this other world ‘being’ caused it to heal. There, that’s sticking my neck out, isn’t it 🙂 I don’t like the idea of ‘miracles’ but
        what else can you say?

      • Dr Penny Sartori May 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

        Hi Tim,

        Yes this is a really interesting case. Like you, I’m not keen on referring to these things as miracles.

        I think something is happening that we don’t yet understand. I think the more research that is undertaken, and consequently the more cases like this that are discovered, will give us more opportunity to investigate possible mechanisms that could explain how these healings have occurred.

        It is a very exciting time as this highlights the potential of making many new discoveries about our minds and bodies.

  5. Tony May 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Penny I watched your video in the forum and it was excellent. You were wonderful. Regarding evidence to support healing, you mentioned the patient with the fracture that healed post his nde. You mentioned that to prepare the surgery they looked at the fracture and saw that it healed. This would mean that there should be imaging that clearly shows a fracture and imaging that shows the healed fracture. What an interesting bit of evidence worthy of publishing somewhere. And with the nde component, wow it would be extremely important to share. Are you aware of any effort to publish something or if there is anything out there already. It would be interesting to read.

    • Dr Penny Sartori May 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      Hi Tony, thank you for your comment. Yes, Patient 12 had an interesting healing aspect to his case. He was a patient for a few weeks and was extremely sick due to his serious injuries. His fractured arm was not as high priority as his other severe injuries therefore it was not planned to repair the fracture until his condition improved considerably. He wasn’t considered fit enough to return to the operating room until he was discharged to the orthopaedic ward which was a few weeks after his initial injury.

      On admission to hospital he had various x-rays and one of them revealed a fracture in his right humerus. When the surgeon looked at the x-ray that was taken prior to the planned repair surgery (a few weeks later when Patient 12 had recovered sufficiently from his other injuries), it was apparent that the fracture had knitted together and had healed, therefore surgery was not necessary.

      When I interviewed the patient he remarked to me that the surgeon had mentioned that he did not require an operation. The surgeon was a little surprised and was unable to explain to him how it had healed so quickly.

      It is difficult to attribute the healing solely to the NDE as there are other confounding variables that have to be taken into consideration such as length of time, blood supply to the injury etc. However, I think that if more cases like this are reported in the future it may well show that there is a strong correlation between NDEs and healing. If this was just a one off case of healing then it would be easy to dismiss but as I’ve said before, there are quite a few of such healing cases and cumulatively they appear to suggest that there is something going on that we simply don’t yet understand. If we could find out how these healings have occurred so quickly then this could benefit many people in the future.

      The case is written up in my book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study. I do mention the confounding variables which incidentally were not conducive to a fast healing. For example, his arm was not supported in a sling as recommended due to other treatments which had greater priority. Again this healing was only picked up when I interviewed the patient when he was recovering – a few weeks after his initial injury. It makes me wonder if more people have also had healing but they simply go unnoticed. I will certainly bear this in mind for any future research and will make a point of asking prospective research participants if they have noticed any unusually fast healings.

      I am also planning to write some articles for publication in journals. I was so exhausted and a little ‘burned out’ after my research was completed that I didn’t write many articles for publication – time to get to it!

      • Tony May 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

        Thanks for the reply, a well earned rest, indeed. 🙂

  6. Tony June 3, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    Penny, in the conference did dr. Alexander discuss in any way whether his recovery could not be easily explained medically? He speaks frequently of how dire his condition was and how it was unlikely that he would survive however I’m curious if there was a “miraculous” component of his healing.

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Hi Tony, Dr Alexander didn’t specifically mention anything miraculous about his healing but having worked in intensive care myself and having come across several cases of meningitis I would concur that it is unusual to survive such a severe case. Dr Alexander had a very severe strain of meningitis and his physicians had got to the point where they had considered discontinuing his antibiotics which is only contemplated if it is deemed futile to continue with therapy.

      I think the miraculous bit is that Dr Alexander is a highly respected neurosurgeon and he had a very deep NDE which has motivated him to speak about what he experienced in a very public way. It is so remarkable that someone who has such extensive and intricate knowledge of how the brain works has now revised his understanding of consciousness. This is such an important time in history because it appears that we are learning a great deal about consciousness which will take our evolution to another level.

  7. Jake June 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Hey Penny- very interesting stuff. Definitely one of the most impressive aspects of NDEs.

    This might sound kind of weird and confusing, but I was thinking about the AWARE study, and I just can’t see it getting any “hits”. Even if NDEs are real, would the universe “allow” there to be any hits? This could quite possibly be the biggest news of all time- that we have souls. If that happens though, isn’t the game of life over in a sense? It is like everyone knows the ending, and it takes away much of the point of life. Then again, if there are no positive results from it, that signals a bad sign for NDEs (assuming people are in a position to see them but give a false answer).

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      Hi Jake, yes this is a very interesting aspect of NDEs.

      It’s interesting that you should ask the question would the universe ‘allow’ there to be any hits with regards to viewing the hidden targets in the AWARE project. I recall a conversation I had with Dr Peter Fenwick (one of my PhD supervisors) back in 1996 when I was setting up my study. He said maybe we are not meant to yet have the ability to correctly identify the targets – maybe its beyond our current comprehension.

      I think the publicity around the AWARE study has in a way given us unrealistically high expectations for patients correctly identifying the targets which may be an unrealistic expectation. I’ve written a previous post about veridical perception and there are so many factors to be taken into consideration when undertaking veridical perception studies. As I discovered with my research, it’s more than just a case of viewing hidden targets. We have to take into account the rarity of OBEs and then even more pertinent, as I certainly found in my prospective hospital research, the rarity of a good quality OBE. Despite there being 8 OBEs reported in my study there were only 2 of sufficient quality in which the targets could be viewed. In both cases the patients were too interested in their body to look around for hidden targets that they didn’t even know were there.

      In order to show any kind of results from the AWARE study I think it would be best to run for at least ten years and ideally researchers should be present at each cardiac arrest and each patient intereviewed as soon as they are medically fit. As I found when doing my study this is a huge task and very time consuming requiring extreme motivation – I was completely exhausted and burned out by the time I had completed my five years data collection.

      • Tony June 9, 2012 at 1:03 am #

        I surely hope that failure to find targets in aware will not turn off further research in the area. I remember reading dr parnias book that it was difficult to get funding for this type of research. Perhaps not finding targets may make it more difficult in the future? I hope not.

      • Dr Penny Sartori June 9, 2012 at 9:23 am #

        Hi Tony, I don’t think it will affect future research as everything must be taken into consideration by prospective funding agencies. There may be some really interesting results with the AWARE study in the future so at the moment it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

        Yes this area is very difficult to get any kind of funding. If you look at all of the NDE studies that have been undertaken, they have all been done by just a handful of dedicated people who did the work in their own time, were not paid for doing the work and had minimal funding. If you compare this to other types of research you will find that substantial funding was available along with ample resources and the researchers were paid well and it was their job not something that was undertaken in their own time secondary to their job. There is still a lot more funding and support required for any kind of NDE research.

      • Jake June 10, 2012 at 10:27 am #

        Thanks for the reply Penny. It only makes sense that this shouldn’t be easily known. I can’t imagine a world where an afterlife can be scientifically proven. It would be so different. Better? Most likely yes. But if we are here to learn to love one another, then everyone having that absolute knowledge would make things kind of pointless. God doesn’t make himself known for a reason. We aren’t suppose to know. It is part of the test of life.

        Another topic: I believe an interesting blog post from you, if you wanted to make it, could focus on the extremely bright light and feelings of unbelievable love people feel when they’re in that light. I don’t know how knowledgeable you are on it, but it would be interesting to see similarities and differences between the effects of DMT and NDEs. You often hear people comparing them, but do people on DMT have feelings of an indescribable peace (one if the most important parts of the NDE)? I know they see bright lights, but are these lighta extremely bright yet none blinding like those found in NDEs? Things I’ve always wondered, since DMT is often the leading explanation from skeptics on NDEs.

      • Dr Penny Sartori June 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

        Hi Jake, yes this is all very thought provoking and very difficult to understand for our current materialist scientific point of view. I think it’s quite apparent that our science has no option other to expand and consider other ways of explaining consiousness.

        Funny you should mention about the bright light. I recently read From Science to God by Peter Russell and he mentions the light and how he has tried to research it. I think DMT may have a role to play in the experiencing of the NDE as there are similaraites but again I think it is being considered as a cause as opposed to a correlation. For example, when we smell our favourite food certain areas of the brain will be active but it doesn’t mean that those neurological functions created the food but merely facilitated the experiencing of it. As with NDEs, certain neurological processes may occur (although in cases of cardiac arrest this should not be possible) but it doesn’t mean that those processes created the NDE but merely facilitated the experiencing of it.

        It’s all mind boggling stuff really but a fascinating thing to be researching, there is so much we have to learn about consciousness.

  8. Stuart June 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    ‘I think DMT may have a role to play in the experiencing of the NDE as there are similaraites but again I think it is being considered as a cause as opposed to a correlation.’

    Just wondering should the words cause and correlation have been mixed up in the sentene there?



    • Dr Penny Sartori June 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Hi Stuart,

      I’m not sure exactly what you mean by your question, can you elaborate? I’ll try to answer as best I can below.

      The point I was trying to make is that some people may consider DMT release in the brain to cause the NDE. I was trying to point out that is that DMT may well be released but rather than causing the NDE it is merely the physiological correlation of how the experience is perceived. Does that make more sense?

      • Stuart June 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

        Hi Penny,

        Yes, sorry, I just mis-read the sentence initially, but thanks for the clarification.

        Thanks again


      • Dr Penny Sartori June 11, 2012 at 8:46 am #

        No problem, I thought I may have miscommunicated something. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

      • Jake June 11, 2012 at 12:11 am #

        hmm interesting. I was expecting you to say you thought there was no correlation at all between NDEs and DMT.

        Are you saying the DMT releases the soul from this reality?

        I’ve done research on DMT trips, and they are fascinating. The problem I have with them is that they don’t convince me that they are really occurring in an alternative realty (rather than the brain). Also, most DMT trips involve alien beings. Sometimes even alien abductions, and a lot of people believe the alien abduction phenomenon is caused by DMT. Then you get into things like sleep paralysis (also connected) and it brings me back to my main question: are these real experiences or simply biological hallucinations?

        I can see that maybe these DMT experiences are real rather than hallucinations, but I always wonder whether I am just trying to convince myself that because it is what I want to believe.

      • Dr Penny Sartori June 11, 2012 at 9:01 am #

        Hi Jake,
        Well I’m not exactly saying there is a big correlation between DMT and NDEs but both types of experiences do have some similarities so it’s important to acknowledge this and the possible correlation.

        You are correct – many DMT experiences do include alien abduction scenarios etc. In Rick Strassman’s book DMT: The Spirit Molecule there was only one case report where the subject had an experience which really resembled a NDE. I think her name was Willow (its a while since I read that book) and she had been reading Embraced by the Lightby Betty Eadie which obviously influenced her experience.

        It must be taken into consideration that when people participate in such experiments there is some form of expectation. They are entering into the study with the expectation of having a drug induced experience. The personal history of the subject and the context and setting must also be taken into account as these too can influence the experience. However, when someone has a NDE is is usually very sudden and unexpected. Many people who have a NDE have never even heard of them and do not understand what is happening to them.

        There is not enough research to draw any firm conclusions but, as I said, I think it is important to acknowledge the similarities between the DMT experiences and some NDEs but at this stage I don’t think DMT can fully account for the NDE.

  9. Max_B June 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    I’ve been busy thinking again, trying to rationalise some of the similar components of NDE experiences, within a quantum context. I’ve begun to wonder if during an NDE, we are sometimes glimpsing a deep underlying decision making process, when our brain is extremely quiet (but when quantum processes are still active). We then experience this glimpse of our deep internal decision making process as an NDE, and in terms we can understand, when we later regain consciousness.

    One of the interesting quantum effects is the ability to simultaneously explore every possible option, allowing you to choose the most suitable option, whilst withdrawing from the other explored options without penalty. We’re already seeing this quantum effect in living tissue at room temperature during photosynthesis in plants, which explains it’s efficiancy. As you know I’m very confident that Hameroff is onto something with his Microtubules, but I’m making a leap here, and a suggesting a similar process – allowing us to simultaneously explore every possible choice – to the brain.

    It’s the only way I have been able to reconcile the common NDE components: “hi come along with us”, which then often turns into “you’ll have to go back”, “it’s not your time”, “you’re not ready”, “it’s a mistake”, and the “you can come with us, or go back, it’s your choice”, “if you go back you’ll have a lot of pain/or be healed” etc.

    Because it’s a quantum effect, the process is effectively outside of our space, and outside of our time, and thus it does not discount full interaction in the decision making process with relatives, loved ones, our cultural group etc. (both past, present, and future).

    It would imply to me that the choice to ‘move on’ may be our own? …and therefore our experiences whilst we are here may also partly be our own, as long as they do not conflict with the group, and insofar as we get to choose from the available choices.

    Anyway, I thought it was a good way for me to explain these ‘miracle’ healings – for want of a better word. Hope it makes sense.

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 11, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      Hi Max, ooh you are a very deep thinker! You make an interesting point in your first paragraph which I think it quite plausible. I don’t know much about quantum mechanics but the brain would be extremely quiet as I believe there would be no or very little sensory input at that point i.e. the brain would have shut down to such a degree that the usual sensory input that is constantly around us is simply not processed. This would then leave the brain in a state of trying to make sense of what data was available at that point in time.

      During a NDE the sense of time usually is greatly distorted or ceases to exist which would make sense for your next paragraph with regards to the brain being able to explore every possible action. I really like your point about the possible outcomes as being ‘hi come along with us’ and ‘you can go back or come with us’. I’ve never thought of it in this way before but I think what you say is definitely worth considering. Yes, I think Stuart Hameroff’s work is very interesting although a lot of it the quantum physics aspects are beyond me.

      Thank you for that – you’ve given me something else to think about and go off and research a bit more.

  10. Tony June 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Penny, curious if you heard of this type of condition called Acquired Savant Syndrome – see such example here. Perhaps a related phenomena?

    • Dr Penny Sartori June 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

      Hi Tony, thank you so much for drawing my attention to this clip. I’ve just read the article and watched the video clip. Wow, it’s quite amazing. I’ve heard of Savant Syndrome but not Acquired Savant Syndrome.

      The doctor mentioned that his brain circuits had been re-wired. I wonder if this has in some way de-activated the ‘filter action’ of his brain therefore is allowing him to access an altered state of consciousness in which he is then able to tune into a different frequency in order to suddenly be able to play music according to what he ‘sees’ in his mind before playing???

      This is really fascinating, I will look into this further. Thank you for posting your comment.

      • Tony June 13, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

        Yes Penny, it very well could be. I find this especially interesting because to play an instrument, its not just understanding melody, rhythm, etc, but there is also a physical component – a physical dexterity that requires practice to achieve successfully. Perhaps there is more to this story. Nonetheless its quite fascinating.

  11. tekotek November 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    They say that NDEs share common features like
    • An out-of-body experience.
    • A “tunnel experience”.
    • A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light.
    and so on but if we go through this story (taken from Jeffrey Long website labelled as “3187. Hannah S NDE 11/10/12)

    “I was being prepped to go in to a routine hernia repair outpati”ent surgery. In the past, I had undergone other surgical operations under general anesthesia, with no remarkable outcome, except that I always dreaded the nausea that can present itself upon awakening. The anesthesiologist breezed into the room and informed me that he would be giving me what they term “twilight sleep” which, he said, would cause me to fall fully asleep at first, but then I would re-awaken during the operation itself. However, he told me, I would feel no pain during the remainder of the surgery.
    I was alarmed, to say the least, that I would be awake for part of the surgery and started stammering that I wished they could just put me fully under, as I was really afraid of what it would be like to wake up during the middle of my operation! (I think I feared the mental aspect of it more than the possibility of feeling physical pain.) But he just patted me and assured me that all would be fine. So, as I was being wheeled in to the OR, I was feeling a huge amount of fear and tension and was not at all in a good frame of mind. I’m sure my heartbeat and vitals were quite elevated. However, putting on a brave face, I joked calmly with the staff as they settled me on the narrow bed and prepared to put me under with the “twilight sleep.”
    I then immediately found myself…and I really mean I literally “found myself” sitting in a space about the size of a large walk-in closet. There were no windows that I could see but the walls glowed and sparkled with the purest gold color that can be imagined. The walls were sloped upward at a sharp angle and met at a point about eight feet above me, and I was aware that I seemed to be sitting inside a small pyramid, or something that had the same interior shape as a small pyramid would. I was sitting in a low stone bath “tub” carved out of the solid rock, or whatever the gold material was, and was immersed in golden liquid up to about my waist. My knees were above the golden water and I was taking handfuls of it and languidly letting the soft metallic streams of glowing liquid fall like silk between my fingers. I realized that my skin was gold, as if I were the girl who had been painted gold in the Bond film Goldfinger. None of this seemed the least bit strange to me, but rather, blissfully peaceful and making the most perfect sense. Time had no meaning whatsoever, and I could have been sitting there for three seconds or thirty years. As I scooped up handfuls of the liquefied gold and watched it sparkle, I realized that it was alive, just as I was alive – and to my utter and indescribable joy the dawning came upon me that not only was I immersed in the gold and covered with it, but that I WAS the element of gold itself! The knowledge crept up on me with ever mounting bliss that I could exist as a human being, but also outside of myself as an element in the universe, and that my human state was only a small part of what I really was. The happiness and joy that came with this knowledge cannot be described other than by saying I felt that I could laugh with delight and never stop laughing about the beauty and blissfulness of the true state of our existence. It was just sheer beauty, love and peace, and timeless bliss.
    At some point, however, I began to hear muted voices and the clinking of instruments. I slipped out of that beautiful golden world into a confusing, dreary place that I was starting to remember and was less than happy about returning to. The operating room, with its noisy confusion, seemed way less real to me than the place where I’d just been, and a great deal less pleasant. I knew I had the ability to open my eyes at that point, but chose to keep them closed. I was awake and could feel the push-push and tug-tug as the surgeon worked to insert the hernia mesh and to close up the incision. I could feel pressure, but no pain. I had no fear, but just an overwhelming feeling of “Oh Shit! THIS place again!” I still felt the very clear memory of the joy that had just been within my grasp – and I was terribly sorry to be back in a place that was so very dull by comparison.”

    to me it sounds just like being on psychedelic drugs.
    I guess that story above can be considered as a kind of simplified specimen of all NDEs so my question is: If there are NDE stories like the one above which definitely sounds like a drug overdose why is it so hard to believe be that all NDEs are consequences of chemicals in the brain?

    • Dr Penny Sartori November 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

      You ask a very good question. Not all NDEs have all of the elements such as the tunnel and light, out of body experience etc.

      This is a very interesting example that you have cited. There are similarities between NDEs and psychedelic drug experiences (and there are also differences). I don’t rule out that chemical changes may occur in the brain during NDEs. However, rather than these changes creating the NDE they may just be correlations.

      The belief that the brain creates consciousness does not for me explain NDEs, especially some of the cases that I came across in my research. To me it makes far more sense to explore the possibility that consciousness is mediated by the brain. The brain may act like a filter and block out this altered state of consciousness that is accessed during a NDE. There are times when this filter action becomes dysfunctional (as it would do close to death or due to injury) and it is when this filter action is dysfunctional that these altered states are experienced. There are other times when altered states of consciousness (similar to NDEs) can be experienced such as with the ingestion of psychedelic drugs but the set, setting and context are very different to that of a NDE when annihilation of the body is a real possibility (psychedelic drugs are usually taken with some form of expectation). When these states are experienced there may well be chemical changes in the brain but these are more likely to be correlations than causations.

      I don’t have all the answers but I think our understanding of consciousness requires revision and updating.

  12. Tony December 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    Penny, interesting video about the placebo effect that some might find interesting. 🙂

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Tony, thanks for the link. I’m very interested in the placebo effect so I will check it out.

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

        Hi Tony, I finally got around to checking out the link. Thank you so much, it is really fascinating. I talk about the placebo effect on the course that I teach so this is such a great illustration of the power of the mind. I will give the link to my students.

  13. tekotek December 23, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Hi Penny. Merry Christmas. I’ve got a question

    … finding researchers have made is that sleep
    is complicated. By using some equipment to carefully monitor
    the brain waves and eye and muscle movements of sleeping
    people, they have learned that sleep has a specific, repeating
    pattern during a normal night’s rest. Moreover, even though you
    may think the body is quiet during sleep, experts say that at
    some points, vigorous mental and physical activity is going on. And here’s what really happens when those eyelids get heavy and you turn out the light. Gradually, your body starts to relax and your mind begins to wander. However, you’re still vaguely
    conscious of what’s going on. Then, all of a sudden, your brain
    breaks off contact with the outside world. You don’t hear or see
    anything any more, and under your lids your eyes slowly drift
    from side to side: You are asleep…..

    I was just wondering what do you personally think happens when we sleep

    • tekotek December 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      And very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
      Let’s sing a Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem, Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord….”

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      Hi Maria, ooh very interesting question. (Sorry for my delayed response I’ve not been near the computer). I’m not really sure what happens when we sleep, although it is something that does fascinate me. I guess psychologists like Jung believe it is our subconscious mind working itself out while we are totally relaxed and unaware that we are even asleep. So although our bodies are totally relaxed and asleep, our brains are still active but not in the way as when we are awake. Instead of paying attention to and reacting to the multiple stimuli that surround us during the usual waking state the brain is paying more attention to and processing things that have occurred previously during the day.

      I know a friend of mine kept a dream diary and then tried to analyse it a few weeks later. She was able to see that when her dreams had certain themes, it related to a part of her life that was causing her some anxiety. For example she dreamed several times of a specific thing she was later able to see that it was related to her money worries.

      • Tony December 30, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

        My friend, a behavioral psychologist tells me that we are the author of our dreams. Sounds obvious of course but we use symbolism in dreams to reflect the current state we are in emotionally. There are common dream elements that appear time and time again, such as flying, finding oneself naked, running from something, etc. I always wondered if in ndes those common elements also exists- that is if we are dreaming. But it seems ndes have different common elements (light tunnel life review etc) that are not the same. And the common dream elements don’t seem to reflect in ndes. Well maybe flying. Also dreams are very often staged in day to day life (school, work, home etc). However sometimes they are in imaginary places. The feeling of being in a closet definitely would make sense since it could be reflecting the experience of being locked down while under anesthesia. The brain is making sense in a similar way as in the one account that you mentioned Penny of the person who felt they were on a boat (clearly not an nde). There’s a difference to me between what we experience in an nde and what we experience in dreams. The question in my mind regarding ndes is if it’s the context we are in at the time that let’s us experience the common nde elements (rather than the standard dream elements) or the fact that they are two different types of experiences (ndes being transcendental).

      • Dr Penny Sartori December 31, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

        Hi Tony, yes in NDEs the common themes are different to those in dreams. You make a good point about the context of a dream and the context of a NDE but although there may be similarites between some dreams and some NDEs I think they are two different kinds of experience. NDEs are transcendental whereas (most) dreams appear to be our subconscious working itself out while we are relaxed.

        Another interesting point is made by Steve Miller in his book on NDEs, he rightly points out that most dreams don’t play themselves out in full but end suddenly then we wake up. Most dreams end abruptly or something can wake us mid-dream. In a NDE this doesn’t happen. The NDE is usually a much fuller experience and comes to an end such as dead relatives telling the NDEr to go back or a barrier or point of no return is encountered.

      • Max_B January 1, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

        Melvyn Bragg did a short program about ‘dreams’ on Radio 4 a few years ago, which I found very interesting…

        This is where I first discovered that dreams occur at any time when we are asleep, not just during periods of rapid eye movement.

        Also one of the guests mentioned an interesting case of a woman with amnesia who lived in the past, but whose dreams when investigated proved to be about the present, which indicated that her memories were still being created, but that she could no longer access them consciously whilst awake.

      • Dr Penny Sartori January 2, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

        Hi Max,
        Thanks for the link, I will listen to it later as this is something that really interests me too. That is interesting about the woman who had amnesia. I wonder if it was a physiological or a psychological reason for not being able to access her memories.

      • Max_B January 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        I can’t remember now whether it was explained why she was amnesic during the program. However I’ve done a search, and I see Ramachandra mentions what I presume is the same case in a paper from 1996 (page 356-358 “A Theory of Dreams”):

        Click to access Ramachandran%20VS%20Evolution%20of%20self-deception%20Med%20Hypoth%201996.pdf

        In the paper he describes her diagnosis (page 358) as profound anterograde amnesia following an attack of food poisoning in Mexico three years prior to testing.

        I have to say that the claims Ramachandra’s makes within the 1996 paper are actually very cautious, when compared to how I recalled his assertions during the radio program 8 years later. In fact, without the further research he calls for in his paper – which does not appear to have taken place – I’d ignore his claims about this case made during the radio program.

        I think there is a joke in there somewhere about memory bias, although I don’t know if it’s his, or mine… lol…

      • Dr Penny Sartori January 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

        Thanks for all the info Max, I’m going to look into all this. It is really interesting.

  14. Tony December 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Penny I’m curious. Have endorphin levels been measures during cardiac arrest or in your study. I ask because Its been suggested in play during ndes. Is any blood collected during cardiac arrest?

    • Dr Penny Sartori December 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      Ooh, this is a good question. Blood is usually taken during or soon after a cardiac arrest but endorphin levels are not routinely checked.

      However, it is highly likely that endorphins are released during a cardiac arrest. There may be some involvement of endorphins in experiencing a NDE but I don’t think endorphins alone can cause a NDE. The most powerful endorphin (beta-endorphin) is synthesised with ACTH which is released by the pituitary gland and acts to stimulate the adrenal cortex to produce corticosteroids – all part of the stress response. In 1995 Sotelo et al did some research using dogs and found a sudden rise in beta-endorphin in the brains and body fluid of dogs that were conscious at the time of death.

      Endorphins have also been used as a pain killer but it was found that although they were effective for pain relief the patient still had the sensation of touch and venapuncture was still felt. One other important thing to be aware of is that endorphins have a lasting effect in the body. Work undertaken by Oyama et al in 1980 showed that beta-endorphin had analgesic effects that lasted up to 22 hours. With NDEs there is absolutely no pain at all during the NDE, despite in some cases, awful injuries to the body, however as soon as the NDEr is back in the body the NDEr usually feels immediate pain. This was certainly the case of Patient 10 in my study, while out of his body he was completely pain free but as soon as he entered back into his body he was in immediate pain. In fact his pain was so bad that he wished he was dead. Also, the patients of Oyama et al who were injected with endorphins reported feeling very sleepy which is in stark contrast to the hyper awareness described by many NDErs.

      So, if endorphins were the cause of NDEs then I would expect the onset of pain to be gradual as opposed to immediate when the NDEr entered back into their body.

      • Tony December 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

        Yes that is fascinating and does answer my question. Thank you so much! 🙂

  15. mariakobeleva January 4, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    Thanks Penny, your knowledge is immense
    There was a lady who was given a drug which caused her to fall asleep. She woken up during the operation and described her experience considered to be NDE-like

    “…I then immediately found myself…and I really mean I literally “found myself” sitting in a space about the size of a large walk-in closet. There were no windows that I could see but the walls glowed and sparkled with the purest gold color that can be imagined. The walls were sloped upward at a sharp angle and met at a point about eight feet above me, and I was aware that I seemed to be sitting inside a small pyramid, or something that had the same interior shape as a small pyramid would. I was sitting in a low stone bath “tub” carved out of the solid rock, or whatever the gold material was, and was immersed in golden liquid up to about my waist. My knees were above the golden water and I was taking handfuls of it and languidly letting the soft metallic streams of glowing liquid fall like silk between my fingers. I realized that my skin was gold, as if I were the girl who had been painted gold in the Bond film Goldfinger. None of this seemed the least bit strange to me, but rather, blissfully peaceful and making the most perfect sense. Time had no meaning whatsoever, and I could have been sitting there for three seconds or thirty years. As I scooped up handfuls of the liquefied gold and watched it sparkle, I realized that it was alive, just as I was alive – and to my utter and indescribable joy the dawning came upon me that not only was I immersed in the gold and covered with it, but that I WAS the element of gold itself! The knowledge crept up on me with ever mounting bliss that I could exist as a human being, but also outside of myself as an element in the universe, and that my human state was only a small part of what I really was. The happiness and joy that came with this knowledge cannot be described other than by saying I felt that I could laugh with delight and never stop laughing about the beauty and blissfulness of the true state of our existence. It was just sheer beauty, love and peace, and timeless bliss….”

    So I just had a thought, could it be that every time we go to sleep our consciousness or souls go to sit inside pyramids like that, or something of that sort, designed by higher power, with screens on the walls where dreamlets appear

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Maria, Happy New Year to everyone.

      That is a very interesting experience that you have reported. Mmm… that is a very difficult question to answer as I guess we don’t really know happens for definite when we are asleep. Sometimes I dream and it seems very real at the time but then in a few hours time I’ve forgotten it. You have suggested an interesting concept but at present it is very difficult to verify objectively. It would be great to hear of any ongoing research on these ideas.

  16. tekotek January 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    “…When people lose someone they love, it is quite common for them to have hallucinations of the person (or pet) shortly after the loss. The phenomena is now well documented and is known as bereavement hallucinations. In one study, an amazing 80% of elderly widows report having hallucinations—either full visual or auditory—up to a month after the spouse has died. People report seeing or hearing the lost person in some familiar environment, being visited in their dreams, or having conversations with them while being completely awake. Some scientists suggested “…it appears that the neurochemistry of grief is playing an active role on systems in the brain that contribute to visual representation…”. …”

    …this just seems so closely related to NDE or “shared NDE” phenomena….could this all be part of the same thing

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Maria, yes this is a very similar phenomenon. There have been cases where the deceased have been encountered and they have revealed, to the living person, information such as where a will has been hidden or where some money has been put. I haven’t investigated any of these cases for myself or attempted to verify any of these but I do find them ones I have read about to be very intersting. Incidentally, my grandmother used to feel my grandfather lying in bed next to her after he died. She could feel the indentation in the bed and was very certain of its reality – she is not a person for talking about things like this and in fact previously she would have been very frightened of the prospect of her dead husband being in the bed with her but she never doubted its reality.

      Under the current belief that consciousness is a by-product of the brain then it is reasonable to consider these experiences as hallucinatory. However, these experiences could also be considered from a different perspective which to me makes more sense. What if consciousness is primary and not a mere by-product of the brain? Maybe these auditory or visual perceptions of the deceased are always there but simply cannot be accessed under ‘normal’ conditions. However, when someone is undergoing intense grief, rather than the ‘neurochemistry of grief’ creating these auditory or visual perceptions, maybe it is just allowing these experience to be perceived. It is important to consider this possibility rather than dismissing these experiences are mere hallucinations.

      In my study I also documented cases of hallucinations and they were very different to NDEs. On investigation they were very random and bizarre and were attributable to background noise, staff conversation and tactile stimulation. On follow-up of these patients they could rationalise that the hallucinations were not real although they felt very real at the time whereas those who had a NDE remained adamant that it was a real experience and no one could possibly understand it unless they had experienced it for themselves.

  17. tekotek January 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Thank you very much Penny, there is so much to learn. I also have a question about this audio; it’s only 10 minutes long.

    the guy on it might come across as if he is making fun of the whole NDE phenomena but he actually presents two very thought-provoking testimonies of someone who had experiences very similar to NDE….could this also be part of the same thing….

    You know Penny, you and van Lommel are probably very convinced about NDE being something “real” especially van Lommel…but at the Bioethics Panel discussion when moderator Steve Paulson asked everyone “What do you think will happen after you die”. Van Lommel said: “..I am curious …and I am not sure. I am very positive about it but I still don’t know”. And you said: “I agree, studying these experiences has shown me that we can study these experiences leading up to death but after death we have no idea until we experience it ourselves in its entirety at our own death so I think it’s something that we’ll discover at some point”….so deep down you and van Lommel are probably having many doubts ….

    • Dr Penny Sartori January 14, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      Hi Maria, thanks for the link. Yes Whinnery’s work is very interesting and was published in the early 1990’s. A very valuable piece of research to this field of study. A few of his subjects did report OBEs so it may well be that during pilot’s training when gravitational loss of consciousness (G-LOC) occurs an altered state of consciousness can be accessed in some cases. However, there were also many differences between NDES and what the pilots reported. Some of the pilots described confusional experiences and tried to land their planes on clouds etc. The dreamlets also had the characteristics of dreams such as emotional intensity, illogical content, detailed imagery and difficulty in recall.

      There was also a case reported by Dr Peter Fenwick of Allan Pring who was a pilot who had experienced hypoxic altitude sickness and then many years later had a cardiac arrest and had a NDE. He stated that there was no similarlity between his NDE and his hypoxic altitude sickness. He described his NDE as ‘crystal clear’ and it remained so for the rest of his life.

      Ah…your second question is a good one. Mm…what do I think happens after we die? From my research my views on both life and death have changed drastically and my work has given me a completely different perspective to the one I was conditioned to believe in through my upbringing and my education. It is good to have ideas and theories but I found that the current scientific ideas and theories about consciousness were simply not supported by what the patients in my research were telling me and indeed many thousands of patients I have nursed during my nursing career. I think NDEs give a good indication as to what we will experience as we approach death but after death I really don’t know. To be sure of this answer then I have to die myself.

      Many people talk about ‘life after death’ but to me a more important question is ‘What is consciousness?’. My research and studying have led me to consider consciousness from the most logical perspective not what I was conditioned to believe unquestioningly while growing up. Whereas we are taught to believe that consciousness is a by-product of the brain I no longer think this is the case. I think consciousness is primary – so in effect we have been considering consciousness from the wrong perspective since Rene Descartes announced ‘I think therefore I am’ and Isaac Newton declared humans to be machines and left the spiritual aspects of life to the church. Our science developed in a way that simply did not consider spiritual aspects of life and only considered things that were measurable. (One other aspect of human experience that can’t be measured is love and no one will deny that love is not real.)

      My research made me see a wider picture and think outside the box. So, if we consider that consciousness is primary (not merely a creation of the brain) then when people have a NDE they are accessing this heightened state of consciousness in it’s purest form rather than the brain creating the experience. However, how we interpret this consciousness depends on each one of us as each one of us is unique and our backgrounds and cultural influences are different.

      I have been with hundreds of patients (and a few family members) as they died and just before the person dies the body is in some way animated but as soon as they have died there is an instant difference in the appearance of the body. This is most noticeable in the eyes – they are literally just empty and staring ahead. (This is also quite haunting during a cardiac arrest, so many times I have been doing chest compressions on a patient undergoing cardiac arrest and the eyes are just empty and staring ahead with a totally vacant look then if they are successfully resuscitated that look disappears.) So what is it that has gone and where has it gone to? There was some form of energy animating the body prior to death but then it disappears. As our science tells us ‘Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it merely changes form’.

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