Medical Explicability Controversy
by Dr. Jeff, 1/20/02
I am Dr. Jeff.
I 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Dr. Jeff, M.D.
This is now an open letter... any responses?
Copyright1999 by Dr. Jeff and Jody Long