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Closer to the Light
by Melvin Morse, MD and Paul Perry 

Book Review by  Karin Schumacher Dyke

Morse, Melvin, M.D., & Perry, Paul (1990).  Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children  Closer to the Light.  New York, NY:  Villard Books.


The sample size is never indicated, but all of the participants in this book are people who experienced near-death when they were children.  If it was not possible to interview them at that time, Dr. Morse tracked them down when they reached adulthood to take their story about their near-death experience.


Subjects were interviewed about what they experienced during their near-death experience.  Descriptions were recorded of these accounts and major trends were then reported in anecdotal stories of the subjects.  Dr. Morse screened out those who had a possibility of being mentally ill or users of recreational drugs.


Dr. Morse reports on the experiences of near-death experiences.  He also reports on his own experiences of having dreamed that his father had something to tell him, calling his mother, and finding out his father had just died.  Other things presented in this book are:   an explanation of what got him interested in studying near-death phenomena, his first experience with near-death experience with a patient of his in Seattle, reports of patient�s families that experienced their children telling them of their death and of the happiness that they were experiencing in heaven, how near-death experiences differ from drug reaction or reactions to lack of oxygen in the blood, and first hand accounts of patients experiences that lead the researcher to come up with a commonly reported phenomena of near-death experience.

Important Concepts and Definitions

Near-Death Experience � experienced by patients who are clinically dead but then are resuscitated.  These experiences are reported as occurring to the subject during the time that they are no longer clinically alive. 


The reports contained in this book are qualitative in nature having been the actual reports of the patient�s and family�s experiences.  There is also an element of self-report in that Dr. Morse describes his own experiences in the field and in his personal life regarding people�s deaths and leading him to the conclusion that there is a life after death.

Major Findings

A typical reporting of how near-death experiences by a child in a family change the family is reported in Dr. Morse�s first case of dealing with a near-death experiencer.  Katie was a near drowning.  She was hooked up to all kinds of medical apparatus and was not expected to live by anyone including Dr. Morse.  On the third day that she was being treated, she woke up and told Dr. Morse her story about what she had experienced when she had been clinically dead.  She recovers, goes home, and then the family reports uncharacteristic changes that happen to the girl as the result of this experience.

Katie�s parents report that Katie is always helping to make things better for others.  She has other siblings who are also good kids, but Katie is markedly different in this respect.  She, �helps her mother run a large household�has a part-time job, gets good grades, excels in ballet, and has never taken drugs (p. 136).�  As a matter of fact, she reports that she can�t imagine why anyone would want to experiment with drugs at all.  She also believes that she was sent back to Earth by God whose plan for her was for her to help her mother.

The key reason for the description of Katie�s near-death experience and its aftermath is that it is indicative of what is found in the other near-death experiencers.  The people interviewed were successful and driven toward doing something good in the world.  The near-death experience turned their lives around for the better.  The effects were visible to those closest to them.