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Near death experience is a trick of the mind, say researchers


Cardiac arrest patients who have had so-called near-death experiences tend to have higher levels of carbon dioxide in their body, causing a possible trick of the mind triggered by a chemical reaction in the body, researchers have claimed.

Those who have been through the experience say they have felt like their lives “have flashed before their eyes” or have had acute sensations of joy or peace, as well as apparent supernatural encounters.

Scientists in Slovenia gave questionnaires to 52 people who have suffered cardiac arrest to ascertain whether they had any near-death experience, and looked at other information such as the amount of carbon dioxide in each patient - 11 of them reported having such visions or sensations.

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The findings of the research, published in the online Critical Care journal, suggested that those with the most carbon dioxide in their arteries and breath were the ones who claimed to have had the hallucinations.

The report said: “As much as one fifth of out of hospital cardiac arrest patients report NDEs during cardiac arrest. Higher initial petCO2 and higher arterial blood pCO2 proved to be important in the provoking of NDEs. Higher serum levels of K (potassium) might also be important.”


Readers' comments (9)

  • People have these experiences without the cardiac arrest scenario though. How does that match up then? And.. interestingly the experiences of most people are surprisingly similar regardless of creed, colour or culture. How does that match up? And why is there a distinct attempt to dismiss the phenomenon as a trick of the mind....out to hoodwink you into believing what? There might be something other than scientific rationale?!!

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  • If CO2 explains some NDE experiences, it certainly does not explain them all. Take the famous case of Pam Reynolds, an American operated on for an aneurysm deep within her brain. They stopped her heart, drained the blood from her head, cooled her body significantly for the duration of the operation. By any account she was dead on the table. Yet she still had an NDE, observing from above what the surgery team were up to, afterwards she was able to describe their equipment while she was under, and she also had an experience of a spirit world, meeting dead relatives who she says sent her back into her body.

    In another case reported from Holland by a cardiac surgeon, Dr Pim Van Lommel, a cardiac arrest patient with no heartbeat had his false teeth removed by a nurse during the emergency, and she put them in a drawer in the crash cart. A week later, still missing his dentures, the man recognised the nurse who had removed his teeth and told her where she had left them. This despite his having no awareness and no heart function in the emergency room. You don't do something like this if you are simply fantasizing on CO2.

    The literature on this subject is fascinating and the case is most certainly not closed as a result of this latest news item.

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  • My mother claimed she saw her brother sitting in the room with her...more than once. She was fully conscious. no heart attack involved or unconscious state. She was lucid and aware sitting up in her bed and quite conversant, she died a week later.

    Explain that one! I am not over religious neither do I hold firm beliefs of an after life.

    4 weeks after my mother died, my son who she was very fond of became engaged. We took photos at the party and in one of the photos just above him there was an image of light shape very much like a human ...head and arms. It was quite large and I can't say that I can think of an explanation.

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  • CO2 is a theory and an idea. The researcher(scientist, thats his job) has to come up with yet another way to dispute life after death.

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  • the scientist's job is to ask questions and explore the issues, not to push any particular agenda or speak in terms of certainty. How the research is reported is another and separate issue

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  • yet another example of the medical model attempting to trample human experience down in order to squash explanations of experience into a limiting model

    obviously we do have physical bodies, complete with CO2 levels that can be measured by physical devices

    however, to dismiss the hundreds of reports of OOBE's, examples of which are given above, many of which result in the patient having knowledge, for instance of what happened to them on the theatre bed while they were "out of body", would be as short sighted as it would be to discount correlating observations of CO2 levels

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  • I remember hearing from a research documentary that there are absolutely no signs/signals of brain activity during a cardiac arrest or if there is, it will be minutely small to detect and will therefore be unable to produce any signsficant images. Now I wonder how it can be the mind playing tricks. I think before they should have included measurimg the levels of mental activity in their research as well.

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  • I'd be interested to know who funded the research, what the attitudes of the researchers was towards after-life or not, what religious affiliations they had, if any, and what other research they had done prior to this piece. Kubler-Ross' writings come to mind instantly and the research conducted by Southampton ICU/CCU. Maybe also a psychological angle in terms of neuropsychology and a discussion of the impact of personal baggage.
    Come on NT, I want more than just medical tabloid headlines and reportage!

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  • I wrote to the Nursing Times in the past trying to raise concerns about Radionics which has featured in the magazine as "The Medicine of the Future" in the 1980`s. Scalar wave Radionics (quatum healing) is espesually connected with NDE.
    Has little to do with death but the manipulation electronically of the natural energy around living beings. Yogis do breathing to change the co2 levels. Scalar
    radionics is a very bad thing. It messes up the natural balance its a pandoras box with
    doctors who are into alturnative medicien thinking its low powered developed from stealth and weapon systems. A number of doctors are using these devices both under and over the counter without knowing what their getting either themselves or their patients into??
    The military found that this type of technology meant low level psychics could
    do what might take years to learn if ever.
    The medicial profession seem to have little understanding of biochemistry and bioelectric fields.. That`s how so called homeopathy works. Those bioelectric fields can move around. NASA say we exist in more than one space not just in the body but outside the body. Most are not aware because the left and the right brain are not working together. Do a search for J.wilcox, the sceintific and medical network
    Scalar radionics. Be warned this is not a good place to go.

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