Paper: Near-death experiences and the change of worldview in survivors of sudden cardiac arrest: A phenomenological and hermeneutical study.
Journal: Qualitative Research in Medicine & Healthcare.
Year published: 2022
Author(s): Hans Zingmark and Aneth Granberg-Axell.
Link to full paper (PDF).
This is an interesting paper both because it focuses on the common experiences of just four individuals rather than a larger (self-selecting) group responding to an invitation, and because the interviews were carried out relatively soon after the NDEs.
The group all had hospital documented cardiac arrests.
The authors, a working pulmonologist and a retired ICU nurse, wanted to build on the existing studies looking at common experiences and life impacts on people who had experienced an NDE to better inform healthcare workers providing supportive care.
Medical staff at a hospital in Sweden identified patients who had mentioned memories both during and after their cardiac arrest over a 12-month period from August 2016.
In total, 30 patients were successfully resuscitated during this time. Five of them mentioned NDEs, one of whom died shortly afterwards.
All four individuals interviewed had been resuscitated through the use of defibrillators and had ventricular fibrillation (VF) arrests.
After obtaining consent, they were contacted and interviewed at the hospital 10 weeks after the event.
Transcripts of the interviews were then analysed for common themes.
Anders was married and 74 years of age. He had ended his working career in a leading position for a company with 20 employees. He viewed himself as an easy-going man who, for the most part, had a bright outlook on life. He experienced an NDE during an SCA that lasted nearly two minutes. He said that the NDE started with a brightly lit, joyful meeting with his parents when he was about two or three years old, followed by a life review, where he re-experienced his life at intensely high speed. He said that if he had compared it to the world’s fastest computer, the computer would have been slow in contrast. To him, the experience was clear and vivid, featuring memories and people from his past who were alive again. He also explained that before the experience, he did not believe in any form of continuation of life after death, although he said he had thought about it previously.
Bertil was 57 years old, married, and had adult children. He was an officer in law enforcement. He recalled experiencing a tunnel of light during an SCA that also lasted approximately two minutes. The experience was very real to him. He felt like he was completely there with his whole consciousness and that he was moving forward inside a tunnel of light that he perceived to have an end, but which he never reached. The tunnel and the surroundings were full of life, and he said that never thought it had anything to do with death. He felt comfortable and unafraid. He was very curious about the tunnel and all that was going on there. As with Anders, Bertil was also very clear about a non-belief in continuation of life after death before his experience.
Sven was the youngest in the group at 41 years of age. He was married and a father of two children in their early teens. He was an officer in the Swedish military. Sven experienced an NDE lasting approximately five minutes during an SCA at his work, and he was resuscitated by his colleagues. He experienced a light that he described as very strong, full of life, and without any evil at all. His impres-sion was that he was standing at the beginning of something, as if on a threshold, as he watched a light all around and in front of him. To him, the experience was also very clear, and he felt calm and without fear. In the distance, he also heard the voices of his colleagues who were resuscitating him. He felt an enormous resistance against returning to his body. His impression was that his consciousness had experienced another realm, completely different from the current physical world. He said that he did not have many thoughts or firm beliefs about the continuation of life before his NDE experience.
John was the oldest participant at 88 years of age. He was a widower whose wife passed away many years ago. He lived by himself in a house in the countryside. He described himself as a man from nature, a down-to-earth human being who appreciated the small things in life such as a deer passing over the field next to the house where he lived. His experience was of being in between the physical world and something he described as “the world of the dead” during an SCA that lasted six to eight minutes. He had no visions, but rather a vivid sense of traveling towards something that he described as “the other side” where the atmosphere was peaceful and very welcoming. He loved the atmosphere, and he cried deeply when he described how it was there. He was also aware of his own body and had a strong feeling of wanting the people who were helping him to stop their resuscitation attempt. He did not want to go back to what he described as “life” again. He wanted to go on. Prior to the NDE, his view of life after death leaned in the direction that there was a possibility of life after death, but his NDE experience cemented that belief.
The Common Themes:
- Being on the other side in another dimension.
- Not dreaming, this is a real experience.
- Being in a non-physical condition without my body
- Contrasting views of life and death before and after the NDE.
The authors also noted that all four participants had described an increased appreciation and respect for life, with increased valuing of relationships and less interest in material possessions.
This was accompanied by an altered conception of reality, space and time that affected their beliefs and behaviours moving forward.
In summary, participants of the current study perceived their NDEs as unquestionably real, which, in turn, led to a fundamental shift in perceptions about self and reality, followed (immediately so, in the cases of Bertil and Sven) by a change in worldviews …. This study’s findings indicates that the change of the worldview is potentially fast or even instantaneous and is caused by a perception of what for patients is undeniably another existing reality…. Perceived experience of another place that is equally real (if not more real) than normal, day-to-day circumstances reenforces patients’ understanding that there is something more to what most people consider physical reality, and that resulting perception will likely never be undone.
I recommend reading the entire paper for a deeper dive into the experiences of these individuals.
Leave a Reply