The van Lommel et al Study on NDEs (Evidence of the Soul & Heaven from Near Death Experiences, II.B)
The second of 4 studies we will be reviewing for this particular topic is the van Lommel et al Study.
The Lancet (Britain’s most prestigious medical journal) reported the findings of a longitudinal study of near death experiences carried out by four researchers in Holland.
The study surveyed 344 cardiac patients who were successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest in ten Dutch hospitals. It compared demographic, medical, pharmacological, and psychological data between patients who reported near death experiences and patients who did not (controls) after resuscitation. It studied life changes after NDEs, and compared the groups two and eight years later.
This study found that 62 adult patients (18% — roughly one out of every five) resuscitated from cardiac arrest experienced an NDE with some of the characteristics described above.
No patients reported distressing or frightening NDEs. The 18% positive response does not necessarily mean that the others did not have an NDE.
In fact, Parnia et al. believe that many of those who could not remember having an NDE may have been adversely affected by morphine or other medications administered during the resuscitation procedure.
There may be other mitigating factors such as age or prolonged CPR, and some may have been unwilling to recount it (for fear of being thought to be unbalanced). This percentage enabled the van Lommel researchers to conclude that the experiences associated with NDEs were not likely to have been caused by physiology alone:
With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.
The researchers concluded from this:
Our most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do not have a physical or medical root. After all, 100 percent of the patients suffered a shortage of oxygen, 100 percent were given morphine-like medications, 100 percent were victims of severe stress, so those are plainly not the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences and 82 percent didn’t.
If they had been triggered by any one of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death Experiences.
Van Lommel’s rationale does not conclusively rule out a physiological explanation of near death experiences, because there might be other physical factors beyond those mentioned in his study.
However when van Lommel’s rationale is combined with the three kinds of verifiable evidence (discussed in Section III below), it virtually rules out the possibility of a purely physiological explanation of near death experiences, indicating the survival of human consciousness after clinical death.
Of the 62 patients reporting an NDE, all of them experienced some of the following ten characteristics, according to the following distribution:
- Awareness of being dead (50%)
- Positive emotions (56%)
- Out of body experience (24%)
- Moving through a tunnel (31%)
- Communication with light (23%)
- Observation of colors (23%)
- Observation of a celestial landscape (29%)
- Meeting with deceased persons (32%)
- Life review (13%)
- Presence of border (8%)
This study also reported corroborative veridical out-of-body experiences. These experiences enabled patients to have sensorial knowledge which they were not able to have through their physical bodies. In other words, if these patients had not been in an “out-of-body” state, they would never have been able to experience the data they accurately reported.
The corroborated veridical sensorial knowledge by both sighted and blind patients is very significant because there does not appear to be any physical explanation for these corroborated phenomena, leading to the conclusion that there must be some form of nonphysical conscious existence (including self-consciousness, memory, intelligence, and self-identity).
Van Lommel and his team conclude as follows:
How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? . . .
Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience. NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation.
In our prospective study of patients that were clinically dead (flat EEG, showing no electrical activity in the cortex and loss of brain stem function evidenced by fixed dilated pupils and absence of the gag reflex) the patients report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, or memory from early childhood occurred, as well as perceptions from a position out and above their ‘dead’ body.
Notice that van Lommel’s study indicates that blind people see during clinical death.
This finding is corroborated in greater detail by Dr. Kenneth Ring and his team, which we will discuss in our next post, “Part II.C Dr. Kenneth Ring’s Studies of the Blind”.