Helping patients who've had near-death
by Diane Corcoran PhD
Book Review by  Karin Schumacher Dyke

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Corcoran, Diane K., Lt. Col, R.N., PhD. (1988).  Helping patients who�ve had near-death [Electronic Version].  Nursing88, November, 34-39.


A sampling of reported near-death experiences as well as reports from research of near-death experiences round out the research attempts in this article.


Interviews with people who have experienced near deaths as well as a review of research of people in the field of near death experience resulted in this article.


Dr. Corcoran presents ways in which medical professionals can help near-death experiencers deal with the aftermath of this experience as well as information about the commonalities of near-death experiences.  Questions such as:  

How common are near-death experiences? 

What do near-death experiencers report having experienced in the afterlife? 

What do the main researchers in the field have to say about near-death experiences?                             

What are the after effects of the near-death experience as reported by the   experiencers, the families of the experiencers and the medical professionals involved with the experiencers?

Are answered in this journal article on the near-death experience phenomenon.

Important Concepts and Definitions

Near-Death experience � clinical death of a patient accompanied by successful resuscitation.  The experiences of the patient of the afterlife experienced between the death and the resuscitation are known commonly as the near-death experience.


Major trends are found in the research and self-reports taken by the author are used to explain the near-death phenomenon.

Major Findings

Near death affects the family in many ways.  One mother whose 6-year old son had experienced near-death reported the effect of the near-death experience being, �like sending in a 6-year-old and getting back a 36-year-old (p. 37).�  Children who have near-death experiences typically seem older than their years would suggest.  Families must adjust to this change in the children who have near-death experiences.  People who have near-death experiences often have trouble relating to the lives they�ve led in the past and attempt to make drastic changes involving becoming more helpful and empathetic to the whole world that they experience.  This is such a drastic change that families often wonder who these people are anymore.  They wonder how to adjust to such radical change.  Many people find that no one understands the experience of near-death that they have just undergone.  This creates a gap between the family and the experiencer that sometimes can be difficult to bridge.

Professionals are instructed to help the near-death experiencer to make sense of the experience they have just gone through to facilitate the adjustment back into the family.  This may take the form of researching the near-death phenomena, talking with others who have experienced the same thing, and even going to see a therapist of some kind.  The more the family can also participate in these interventions, the greater the understanding and the more smooth the adjustment becomes for the entire family system.