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The International Association for Near Death Studies, Inc.

A near­death experience , or NDE , is a profound psychological and spiritual phenomenon that typically occurs during a trauma, health crisis or clinical death, although similar experiences can happen spontaneously in emotionally intense situations or during every­day life. Each near­death experience is unique, but as a group NDEs display common features . By itself, coming close to death without any of these special features is not what is meant by a "near­death experience."

No scientific explanation so far accounts for all aspects of NDEs or their effects. For example, lack of oxygen is not a factor in all NDEs, nor is the presence of drugs. Whereas hallucinations tend to be individual, and produce confusion and hazy memories, NDEs follow a broad general pattern that crosses cultures; they remain in memory for decades as being "realer than real." The research continues.

Thousands of documented NDEs challenge mainstream Western thinking and belief systems. For example, some people who have an NDE accurately report events that occurred around their bodies when they were unconscious or even clinically dead. Some NDEs have revealed family secrets, such as the existence of a never­mentioned sibling. Expectations about an afterlife may be challenged, and some people abruptly develop radically new interests and abilities after an NDE. Importantly, the effects of an NDE are enduring, powerful, and often life­altering.

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Near Death Experience Research Foundation

The Near­Death Experience (NDE) may be defined as "A lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death."

NDE's are relatively common.  A Gallup Poll in 1992 led to an estimate that 13 million Americans may have experienced an NDE.  Research indicates approximately 30% of all people facing a life threatening event will experience an NDE.

Previous NDE investigators have greatly contributed our understanding of NDE.  What is clear is that NDE is not a hallucination or mental/psychiatric dysfunction.   They are real.  All NDE experiencers we talked with felt their experience was significant and meaningful.  NDE experiencers may have questions regarding their experience, yet have a deep sense the experience was real.

We are impressed with both the similarities and dissimilarities of NDE experiences.   While some experiencers have a detailed and prolonged experience, others have a shorter and less "dramatic" experience.  We believe all NDE experiences are significant and important in our quest to learn their meaning.

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How Stuff Works

Near­death experiences (NDEs) are common enough that they have enter­ed our everyday language. Phrases like "my whole life flashed before my eyes" and "go to the light " come from decades of research into these strange, seemingly supernatural experiences that some people have when they're at the brink of death . But what exactly are NDEs? Are they hallucinations? Spiritual experiences? Proof of life after death? Or are they simply chemical changes in the brain and sensory organs in the moments prior to death?

Dr. Raymond Moody coined the term "near­death experience" in his 1975 book, "Life After Life." Many credit Moody's work with bringing the concept of the near­death experience to the public's attention, but reports of such experiences have occurred throughout history. Plato's "Republic," written in 360 B.C.E., contains the tale of a soldier named Er who had an NDE after being killed in battle. Er described his soul leaving his body, being judged along with o­ther souls and seeing heaven.

A near­death experience is any experience in which someone close to death or suffering from some trauma or disease that might lead to death perceives events that seem to be impossible, unusual or supernatural. While there are many questions about NDEs, one thing is certain ­­ they do exist. Thousands of people have actually perceived similar sensations while close to death. The debate is over whether or not they actually experienced what they perceived.

Grabianowski, Ed.  "How Near­death Experiences Work."  30 March 2006. accessed: 03 February 2009.

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A near­death experience ( NDE ) refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with impending death , encompassing multiple possible sensations ranging from detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, extreme fear, total serenity, security, or warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light, which some people interpret as a deity [ 1 ] Some see NDEs as a paranormal and spiritual glimpse into the afterlife .

Such cases are usually reported after an individual has been pronounced clinically dead , or otherwise very close to death, hence the entitlement near­death experience. Many NDE reports, however, originate from events that are not life threatening. With recent developments in cardiac resuscitation techniques, the number of NDEs reported has increased. Most of the scientific community regards such experiences as hallucinatory , [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] while paranormal specialists and some mainstream scientists claim them to be evidence of an afterlife . [ 5 ] [ 6 ] [ 7 ]

Popular interest in near­death experiences was initially sparked by Raymond Moody , Jr's 1975 book " Life After Life " and the founding of the International Association for Near­Death Studies (IANDS) in 1978. According to a Gallup poll , approximately eight million Americans claim to have had a near­death experience. [ 8 ] NDEs are among the phenomena studied in the fields of parapsychology , psychology , psychiatry , [ 9 ] and hospital medicine . [ 10 ] [ 11 ]

  • 1 "Dayspring" Wilson, Kimberli, New Age Journal, (Gainesville, Florida) September 1983, p. 25, retrieved online 1/29/2008 " [1] "
  • 2 Buzzi, Giorgio. " Correspondence: Near­Death Experiences. " Lancet. Vol. 359, Issue 9323 (June 15, 2002): 2116­2117.
  • 3 Britton, Willoughby B. and Richard R. Bootzin. "Near­Death Experiences and the Temporal Lobe." Psychological Science. Vol. 15, No. 4 (April 2004): 254­258.
  • 4 Blackmore, Susan: Dying to Live: Near­Death Experiences (1993). London, Grafton.
  • 5 Grossman, Neil (Indiana University and University of Illinois), Who's Afraid of Life After Death? Why NDE Evidence is Ignored , Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), 2002
  • 6 Fontana, David (Cardiff University and Liverpool John Moores University), Does Mind Survive Physical Death? , 2003
  • 7 London Telegraph, 10/22/2000 article: Soul­searching doctors find life after death , about Drs. Peter Fenwick and Sam Parnia studies of heart attack survivors
  • 8 Mauro, James (1992) Bright lights, big mystery. Psychology Today , July 1992.
  • 9 Greyson, Bruce (2003), "Near­Death Experiences in a Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic Population", Psychiatric Services , Dec., Vol. 54 No. 12. The American Psychiatric Association.
  • 10 van Lommel, Pim (Hospital Rijnstate), "Near­death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands" in The Lancet , 2001.
  • 11 van Lommel, Pim (Hospital Rijnstate),"A Reply to Shermer: Medical Evidence for NDEs" in Skeptical Investigations , 2003.­death_experience (accessed 05/01/2009)

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Crisp & Taylor Fundamentals of Nursing

An NDE has been identified as a psychological phenomenon for people who have been either close to clinical death or may have recovered after being declared dead. It is not associated with a mental disorder (Basford, 1990). People who experience an NDE after cardiopulmonary arrest, for example, often tell the same story of feeling themselves rising above their bodies and watching caregivers initiate lifesaving measures. Most people describe passing through a tunnel to a bright light, encountering people who have preceded them in death and feeling an inner tranquility and peace. Instead of moving toward the light, they learn it is not time for them to die and they return to life.

Clients who have a NDE are often reluctant to discuss it, thinking family or caregivers will not understand. Isolation and depression can occur. People who can discuss an NDE with family or caregivers, however, consistently report positive after­effects, including a positive attitude and spiritual development (Turner and others). After a client has survived cardiopulmonary arrest, it is important for the nurse to remain open and give the client a chance to explore what happened.

(Crisp & Taylor, 2009, Potter & Perry's Fundamentals of nursing, 3rd edition, Ch 28, Spiritual Health, pp 483­484)

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