A scientific explanation for near-death experiences?
A study finds there may be a medical explanation for near-death experiences
8th April 2010 -- When some people are near-death they report
sensations such as seeing a dark tunnel, or bright lights; others experience
feelings of peace and joy. A new study finds there may be a rational
explanation for what many see as a mystical or spiritual experience.
Researchers in Slovenia believe that raised levels of carbon dioxide in the
blood may be a major factor provoking the sensations of a near-death
They investigated unexplained events in 52 cardiac arrest survivors.
Carbon dioxide levels significantly higher
Zalika Klemenc-Ketis led the study, working with a team of researchers from
the University of Maribor.
They examined the cases of patients who reported near-death experiences (NDEs)
after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. More than one in five people who were
successfully resuscitated after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest experienced
She said, “Several theories explaining the mechanisms of NDEs exist. We found
that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon dioxide
levels were significantly higher than in those who did not”.
Of the 52 patients, 11 reported NDEs. Their occurrence didn’t correlate with
patients’ sex, age, level of education, religious belief, fear of death,
recovery time, or medications given during resuscitation.
They were more common in people who had previously experienced NDEs.
According to Klemenc-Ketis, “Our study adds new and important information to
the field of NDE phenomena. The association with carbon dioxide has never been
reported before, and deserves further study”.
The research is published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Critical
One piece of the puzzle
Clinical hypnotherapist Andrew T. Austin has a long-standing interest in
near-death experiences from working as a nurse in Accident and Emergency in
Southampton, where he saw a number of patients who reported having an
He says it’s quite possible that carbon dioxide levels may play a part in
bringing on a NDE but it’s “only one piece of the puzzle”.
He says, “Often people are oxygen deprived and they have had a drop in blood
He says, “What may cause NDEs is the actual experience of nearly dying, the
psychological shock of being about to check out”.
There’s no consensus on what causes NDEs. Some people believe they are evidence
of life-after-death, others believe they are purely a neurological phenomenon
or just a particularly vivid dream.