NDE Medical Explicability Controversy
by Dr. Jeff, 1/20/02

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            I am Dr. JeffI shared my views regarding near-death experience (NDE) with you on the recent ABC news broadcast.  Obviously, neither of us were given sufficient time to expand on our perspectives on NDE.  If you are agreeable, I would be delighted to learn more about your perspective of NDE.

My interest in NDE began over a decade ago when I heard a remarkable NDE from a friend, and recalled an article regarding NDE I encountered in JAMA (JAMA. 1980 Jul 4;244(1):29-30).  Largely to personally explore NDE, I published a web site devoted to NDE (www.nderf.org).  Subsequently, I became quite active in IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies, www.iands.org).  There are a number of NDE physician researchers, and virtually none of us are able to convince ourselves of a plausible medical explanation of NDE.  This is consistent with the conclusion of the recent study in The Lancet.  Consistent NDE observations that seem medically inexplicable to me include, but are not limited to:

1.         The common observation that NDErs can see or hear events going on around them while unconscious or clinically without vital signs.  In my investigation of over 250 NDEs shared with my web site, approximately 40% described such visual or auditory perceptions.  In my investigation, there was only one instance where the contributor confirmed what they saw during the experience to be false. This single report involved perceptions at the end of the NDE, where virtually all others had this component of the NDE at the beginning of the experience.  In scores of other NDE accounts the accuracy of perceptions while unconscious were checked by the experiencer.  These perceptions were consistently found to be accurate, and often very detailed.  This finding has been collaborated by a large number of other investigators in many retrospective studies and one prospective study.

2.         There is a remarkable consistency of elements of the experience among NDErs.  These elements involve experiences not typically a part of daily life and include, but are not limited to, telepathic communication, life review, encountering deceased relatives as opposed to individuals currently living, and a marked lucidness of the experience.  A common sentiment among NDErs was expressed by one NDEr saying the experience was far more conscious than humanly normal.�  When asked directly if the experience was dreamlike in any way, virtually all NDErs polled on our web site answered no.  The overwhelming majority of NDE accounts we received (including at least three from physicians) felt the experience was real and meaningful.  The great majority of NDErs have no significant doubts about the reality of the NDE. 

3.         There are several dozen cases of NDEs occurring in blind individuals, including those blind from birth.  70-80% of these individuals have visual NDEs.  I personally encountered a NDE account from an individual with a congenital inability to smell, who smelled a rose during their experience.  There are accounts of deaf individuals with auditory NDEs.  

4.         There is a consistency of changed beliefs and attitudes following NDE that is partially described in The Lancet article.  These findings by The Lancet study are collaborated by multiple retrospective studies by other NDE investigators.  The great majority of NDErs describe significant life changes following the experience.

5.         Those proposing medical explanations of NDE in the past have not been able to find consensus regarding a single or several plausible biological, physiologic or psychological alternative explanations for NDE.  This explains the large number (over 20 at last count) of varied alternative explanations for NDE.  The Lancet study, by far the largest prospective study of NDE, found the occurrence of NDE was not associated with the duration of cardiac arrest or unconsciousness, medication or fear of death before cardiac arrest.

            The preceding are some of the major issues regarding NDE that lead me to conclude NDE is medically inexplicable.  I am always interested in learning about the ideas and perspectives of others on this important issue.  Anything you wish to share regarding your own views on NDE would be greatly appreciated!


            Dr. Jeff, M.D.

This is now an open letter... any responses?

Copyright1999 by Dr. Jeff and Jody Long