Patients Who Have Been Pulled Back from the Brink of Death Help Nurse to Study a Controversial Phenomenon; Book Is Published Following Five Years of Research at Hospitals

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

Patients Who Have Been Pulled Back from the Brink of Death Help Nurse to Study a Controversial Phenomenon; Book Is Published Following Five Years of Research at Hospitals


Byline: Steffan Rhys

LIGHTS at the end of a tunnel, spirits floating above their bodies on the hospital operating table, and lives flashing before your eyes.

They have all been the most commonly described near-death experiences for as long as the often-doubted phenomenon has existed.

But a five-year research project by a Welsh nurse suggests these stories are so common because they actually happen.

Intensive therapy nurse Penny Sartori worked closely with critically-ill patients at Morriston and Singleton Hospitals in Swansea. The setting, experts say, provided well-documented information on near-death experiences (NDEs) which does not fit easily within the parameters of the normal systems of explanation.

One patient reported encountering a dead relative who gave a message to pass on to another member of the family who was still alive, information which stunned the receiver because it had been a secret and was impossible the patient had prior knowledge of it.

In another, a patient who suffered from cerebral palsy awoke from an NDE able to use his right arm normally, even though it had been bent and contracted since birth.

Others reported floating back into their bodies after nearly dying, and others said they had met a figure who had told them their time had not yet come.

In one experiment, Dr Sartori placed playing cards on the top of emergency room cabinets, then asked patients reporting "floating" experiences if they had seen the cards. None had.

Dr Sartori, who has been awarded a PhD for what is the largest study of its kind in the UK, researched 300 intensive care patients and gathered 15 full accounts of NDEs over five years, mainly from heart attack patients.

She spent three years writing up her study and a further two preparing it for publication in her book, Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study, which has just been published.

"All the current sceptical arguments against near-death experiences were not supported by the research," she said, referring to NDEs often being explained away as the effect of endorphins, abnormal blood gases or low oxygen levels, all of which were measured and taken into account during her research.

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