Scientists at the University of Southampton are launching the “largest-ever” study of near-death experiences – in which people with no heartbeat or brain activity see bright lights or feel as if they are watching their own body from on high.
The BBC reports that to test these “out of body” experiences, researchers will place images on high shelves in hospital resuscitation rooms – in such a way that only a person floating high above the ceiling could view them.
It all sounds a bit silly to me, but leading the study is Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in such matters, who explains that there is more to death than you might expect:
“Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.
“During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”
Apparently 10-20% of people who experience this type of clinical death report some kind of near-death experience. This study could help work out if people really do leave their bodies and float around the room, or if it’s just their brains making things up in much the same way as dreams. I know which outcome my money is on…