NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES BE EXPLAINED BY PURELY PHYSICAL CAUSES?
IT seems like every other week mainstream
newspapers trumpet some new study claiming that some researcher
has found a simple physiological explanation for near death
This week newspapers throughout the world
have been reporting the issue as having been settled by
the research of Dr Lakhmir Chawla who they say has discovered
that near death experiences are caused by “a surge
of electrical activity triggered by the brain in the moments
before death” which caused vivid mental hallucinations.
If they had read Dr Lakmir’s original
research published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine
they would know that he had observed this effect on only
7 patients, none of whom was able to report a near death
experience since they all died.
The report shows that he is merely SPECULATING
that people who had this surge of electrical activity MIGHT
have seen something.
And even if the patients’ near death
experiences were accompanied by a surge in electrical activity
it does not show a causal connection.
In any event Dr Lakmir’s research,
and the many other attempts that have been made to explain
the NDE as a result of a whole host of physiological factors
including oxygen deprivation, hallucinogenic drugs, carbon
dioxide in the blood, the shutting down of the dying brain
etc made no attempt to explain all the other features of
Near Death experiences:
* The fact that millions of people during
the NDE have had detailed real, accurate and confirmed perceptions
of what is happening around them and at a distance from
them. These are not visual and auditory hallucinations or
projections of imagined happenings.
*The fact that many of these people have conversations with
relatives who have died before they were born whose existence
they did not know about and bring back knowledge of these
people that is later confirmed.
* The fact that NDE encounters are sometimes shared between
people who are in accidents together.
* The fact that, according to the International Association
for Near Death Studies, around eighty percent of the people
who experience near-death states claim that their lives
are changed forever. They experience specific psychological
and physiological differences on a massive scale which may
cause major adjustment difficulties for, on average, seven
years but especially during the first three years. This
is true with child experiencers, as well as with teenagers
These after-effects are shared by people, including children,
who had intense experiences in a particularly vivid dream,
while meditating or who have narrowly escaped death.
* The fact that some people have near death experiences
when there is NOTHING physically wrong with them (Kason
Elizabeth Fenwick, co-writer of the book The Truth in
the Light—An investigation of Over 300 Near-Death
Experiences (1996) actually began her research thinking
that all could be explained in scientific terms. But, after
investigating, she concluded:
“While you may be able to find scientific reasons
for bits of the Near-Death Experience, I can't find any
explanation which covers the whole thing. You have
to account for it as a package and skeptics... simply don't
do that. None of the purely physical explanations will do.
They (Skeptics) vastly underestimate the extent
to which Near-Death Experiences are not just a set of random
things happening, but a highly organized and detailed affair
(Fenwick 1995: 47).”
These views were supported by a study of Near-Death Experiences
in Holland by cardiologist Dr William van Lommel and his
team who studied 345 cases who would have died without resuscitation.
Ten per cent recalled a substantial Near-Death Experience
and a further eight percent had a less pronounced one.
These patients were compared to a control group who were
identical in terms of seriousness of their illness but who
had not had a Near-Death Experience. According To Dr Van
"Our most striking finding was that Near-Death
Experiences do not have a physical of medical root. After
all, 100 per cent of the patients suffered a shortage of
oxygen, 100 per cent were given morphine-like medications,
100 per cent were victims of severe stress, so those are
plainly not the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences
and 82 per cent didn't. If they had been triggered by any
one of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death
Experiences (Van Lommel 1995)."