We have played a role in the recognition of the “near-death” phenomenon as well as popularization of the subject and subsequent research.

We can provide useful guidelines and knowledge for health care professionals, frontline first aiders, or life saving agencies in handling incidents involving NDEers.

The number of NDEers is believed to be under-reported, especially in Chinese society as death is still a serious taboo in Chinese culture. We can become the pioneer in conducting scientific and academic research in this field, and take up a leading role in Greater China area.

We will organize talk, seminar and conference together with counterparts over the world, and as an important bridge between the East and the West.

As aging raises serious concern to the society, we can provide appropriate death education to the general public. In addition, we can give assistance to the end-of-life caring professionals, especially in treating critical illness patients and elders.

Our research and study areas:

  • Collection of NDEs that fundamentally altered beliefs or understanding about death and dying.
  • Explore the prevalence of NDE phenomena associated with different kinds of illnesses and incidents.
  • Examine NDEs according to the four major elements (Cognitive, Affective, Paranormal, Transcendental) found in Greyson’s scale
  • Measure NDEr life changes over a period of time, and to examine whether there are statistically significant differences in the areas of demographics and psychological make-up.
  • Examine the current state of evidence that might account for NDEs, whether the NDE are caused by psychological, neuroanatomical, and physiological factors, or other unknown factors.
  • Analysis of lessons learned or insights acquired by NDEers.
  • Shadows found in the life review of NDEs.
  • The secrets behind the awakening and life change in NDE, the interaction between Out-of-body experience and Life review.

The importance to conduct NDE research

Health care professionals are likely to come into contact with patients who have had near-death experiences, who may have a variety of reactions to the experience, and who may benefit from psychotherapy. We may also have opportunities to work with individuals who are reacting to others who have had such experiences.

NDEers are of importance to mental health professionals, because they have been reported to produce widespread and long-lasting changes in values, beliefs, and behavior that dramatically affect the experiencers’ attitudes toward living and dying. Most importantly, patients report positive psychological outcomes after a near death experience. Thus, the insights and learning from NDEs could be beneficial to the life education and the mental health of people in the society. The knowledge will also provide useful contribution to future psychotherapy and counseling work.

Health care professionals, like social workers, nurses and physicians etc., can support patients during a time of crisis by assisting them and their families to comprehend the experiential event using effective communication and listening skill.

There is much a professional can offer to these people, including listening respectfully, being nonjudgemental, normalizing the experience, providing education, and assisting with integrating the experience into their lives to develop or maintain the best possible functioning.

How to work with NDEers, some guidelines:

  • Avoid the assumption that the NDEs are symptomatic of pathology, but recognize that individuals with mental illness may also experience NDEs.
  • Respect the profound nature of these experiences as well as the individuality of each experiencer.
  • Provide a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which patients can freely discuss their experiences and the emotions surrounding their NDEs.
  • Avoid projecting professionals’ own value systems.
  • Remember most of these individuals have recently nearly died and encourage them to also express the emotions related to the precipitating events.
  • Normalize the experience for patients without taking away the uniqueness of the NDE.
  • Assist patients with integrating the NDE into their daily lives to maintain best possible functioning.
  • Refer patients to local professional groups for help if needed.

We cannot turn a blind eye to NDEs

Health care professionals are likely to come into contact with patients who have had near-death experiences, who may have a variety of reactions to the experience, and who may benefit from psychotherapy.

We may also have opportunities to work with individuals who are reacting to others who have had such experiences.

Often some sense of trust needs to be developed before they will privilege you with the details of their experiences. Showing that you are someone who can respectfully listen does much to allow disclosure.

Not all NDEs are positive experiences for the NDEers, and some are frankly frightening or even hellish.

Greyson and Bush presented a collection of distressing NDEs that seem to fall into three types. The largest group experienced classic NDE features, but found them terrifying. The second type involved a sense of ceasing to exist or being in a void. The third type, a very small number, reported horrific images, such as demons or a dark pit, suggestive of hell.

Another way to work with NDEs is by caring for individuals who are loved ones of the NDEer and who may feel anything from angry to baffled to derisive to hurt. Just as the psychiatrist needs to express respect for the NDEer and to assist him or her with maintaining adequate function in the face of his or her life-altering experience, so too will some family members need to be supported to do the same, both for themselves and their loved ones.

History and Background of Near Death Experience:

  • The term “Near Death Experience” (NDE) was first brought to the public eye by a psychiatrist, Raymond Moody, in his book Life after Life in 1975.
  • After that, psychiatrists and psychologists expanded the interest into the scientific research of death and dying.
  • Psychologist Kenneth Ring who began researching people with death-bed experiences, and developed a peer-reviewed journal, Anabiosis, which ultimately became the Journal of Near-Death Studies, now published under the auspices of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS).
  • Among all, psychiatrist Bruce Greyson has been prominent in NDE related research and was the editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies from 1982 till 2007.
  • Other than psychiatrists, researchers from other disciplines also participated in the study of NDEs, including physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and chaplains.
  • NDEs are profound subjects events frequently reported by individuals who have a close brush with death.
  • Studies and surveys have estimated that NDE are reported by 30%-40% of individuals who have come close to death, representing about five percent of the adult American population.
  • The number of individuals reporting NDEs, or NDEers, is greater the number of patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined.
  • People of all ages, from the young to the very old, from all cultures and religions, have reported NDEs, as have both women and men, including heterosexuals and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
  • Individuals with disabilities, including blindness and quadriplegia, have reported NDEs. As an interesting aside, individuals who are blind from birth have reported visual experiences during their NDEs.
  • Even when one takes into account whether NDEers had prior knowledge of the phenomenon of NDEs or not, there is no difference in incidence.

Operational Definition of NDE:

  • Weighted developed the Weighted Core Experience Index.
  • Greyson developed the NDE Scale, which is the most common tools for assessing the validity and depth of NDE.
  • Both of which have improved consistency in a field fraught with anecdotes and retrospective analyses.

According to the IANDS, NDE is:

“… a profound psychological event that may occur to a person close to death or who is not near death but in a situation of physical or emotional crisis… An NDE typically includes a sense of moving, often at great speed and usually through a dark space, into a fantastic landscape and encountering beings that may be perceived as sacred figures, deceased family members or friends, or unknown entities. A pinpoint of indescribable light may grow to surround the person in brilliant but not painful radiance; unlike physical light, it is not merely visual but is sensed as being an all-loving presence that many people define as the Supreme Being of their religious faith… The emotions of an NDE are intense and most commonly include peace, love, and bliss, although a substantial minority of these experiences is marked by terror, anxiety, or despair. Most people come away from the experience with an unshakable belief that they have learned something of immeasurable importance about the purpose of life.”

(IANDS. [August 9, 2009]. http://www.iands.org/nde_index/ndes/what_is_a_near-death_experience.html.)

Four Major Areas found in Greyson Scale of NDEs:

1. Cognitive Elements:
Altered sense of time
Accelerated thought processes
Life review
Insight or Awareness

2. Affective Elements:
Feeling of peace
Surrounded with light
Feeling joy
Feeling cosmic unity/oneness

3. Paranormal Elements:
Out of physical body
Senses more vivid than usual
Extra sensory perception (ESP)
Visions of the future

4. Transcendental Elements:
Another world
Mystical being
Encountered beings
Point of no return

Possible explanations of NDE: Psychological, Neuroanatomical, and Neurophysiological models

Psychological theories include expectancy, in which NDEs are simply a product of the imagination; depersonalization, in which feelings of unreality protects one from the threat of death; and personality features, such as having an increased tendency for dissociation, a high capacity for absorption into the moment, and a proneness to fantasy.

  1. Dissociative Identity Disorder Theory
  2. Birth Regression Theory
  3. Self-Satisfying Theory
  4. Attention Distraction Theory

Physiological theories include altered arterial blood gases with hypoxia; neurochemical theories related to endorphins or endogenous ketamine-like neurotransmitters; intrusion of rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep; or neuroanatomical changes, including temporal lobe dysfunction or seizures. These have been predominantly speculative, with only minimal research support. Parnia and Fenwick have eloquently objected to these reductionistic theories and noted that acute alterations in cerebral physiology, such as those that occur in some of the physiological scenarios noted previously, lead to “disorganized and compromised cerebral function;” whereas, the NDEs noted after cardiac arrest are “clearly not confusional and in fact indicate heightened awareness, attention, and consciousness at a time when consciousness and memory formation would not be expected to occur.”

One explanation is that paranormal visions that include seeing bright lights, a tunnel and having feelings of peace may be a stage of enlightenment as death approaches.

More objective explanations point to neuro-chemical changes in a stressed or dying brain as explanation for nearly all the elements of near death experience.

However if this is so, NDE should occur in all patients who are critically ill and near death.

Having an NDE in and of itself should not be viewed as evidence of psychopathology. It has been shown that individuals who have had such an experience are similar in psychological profile to those who nearly died but did not experience an NDE.

NDEs are distinctly different subjective experiences than depersonalization, with NDEs being marked by their pleasurable quality and their sense of being more real than usual daytime alertness versus the unreal quality of depersonalization.

Ring and Greyson both reported that while NDEers did in fact score somewhat higher on a dissociation scale, it was not into the range of psychopathology.