Scientists Validate Near-Death Experiences

ByABC News via logo
January 7, 2002, 3:30 PM

Jan. 8 -- When a car plowed into the vehicle in which she was riding, Leslie's chest was crushed, eight bones were broken and her heart stopped beating for three minutes. Before she was revived, she says she glimpsed the afterlife.

"My next experience was really lying on the ground outside of the car, and it was actually an out-of-body experience that I had," says Leslie, who declined to give her last name. "I was actually floating above my body, and I looked down, and I saw all these men working on this poor girl who was down below, about eight feet below me, and she was struggling."

An estimated 7 million people have reported hauntingly similar "near-death" experiences. And a new study in the British medical journal Lancet gives credence to such accounts, concluding they are valid.

Scientists Study Near-Death Experiences

ABCNEWS' Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson says this study lends more credibility to the possibility that these near-death accounts are accurate because the researchers conducted the interviews soon after the experiences occurred. The study does not provide a way to scientifically measure whether or not there is life after death, however.

The study reported in Lancet looked at 344 patients in the Netherlands who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest in 10 Dutch hospitals.

Rather than using data from people reporting past near-death experiences, researchers talked to patients within a week after they had suffered clinical deaths and been resuscitated. (Clincical death was defined as a period of unconsciousness caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.)

About 18 percent of the patients in the study reported being able to recall some portion of what happened when they were clinically dead; and 8 to 12 percent reported going through "near-death" experiences, such as seeing lights at the end of tunnels, or being able to speak to dead relatives or friends. Most had excellent recall of the events, which undermines the theory that the memories are false, the study said.