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Hospital trials near-death experience research

By This is SouthWales  |  Posted: September 18, 2008

Pam Williams, of Gorseinon, who had a near-death experience.

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DOCTORS hope hidden symbols at Morriston Hospital could help solve the mystery surrounding near-death experiences.

The hospital is taking part in a new project aimed at shedding some light on the phenomenon.

As well as interviewing people who suffer cardiac arrests, pictures will be placed on shelving in resuscitation areas to see if "out of body" experiences really do exist — or whether it is just a trick of the mind.

Intensive care nurse Penny Satori, who wrote her PhD about the process of death, is leading the project at Morriston Hospital.

She said: "The research is looking at consciousness of patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest. A component of this is that people often report leaving their body and seeing the resuscitation process taking place.

"One way of verifying this is putting symbols around the hospital that can only be viewed from an out-of-body perspective. I will then ask patients what they saw and if they can correctly identify any of the symbols."

The three-year study, led by Southampton University, will take place in 25 hospitals and is expected to feature around 1,500 people’s accounts of their near death experiences.

Many report seeing a tunnel or bright light, while others recall looking down from the ceiling at medical staff.

A person who said she has witnessed both is 67-year-old Gorseinon mum Pam Williams (pictured). She suffered a cardiac arrest 40 years ago while giving birth to her youngest daughter at home. She said: "After the birth I was fine. Then all of a sudden I felt myself bleeding heavily. I started to haemorrhage and then lost consciousness."

It was then that Pam’s out-of-body experience began.

"I saw a car pull up outside with a doctor, he pulled his sleeves up," she added. "I then saw myself from above, and the doctor then began to press up and down and my chest.

"All the time I felt really warm and cocooned. I was floating away towards a bright light but I did not get there as I heard my other daughter was in the kitchen shouting out ‘mam’. That was the last thing I remember before waking up in hospital."

Doctors hope by analysing cases such as these it will see whether consciousness continues after the brain, heart and lungs stop working.

Dr Satori, who previously conducted the biggest British research into the near-death experiences, said the research will prove invaluable.

"There could be great benefits from this research for the future," she added. "As well as helping surviving patients psychologically after a trauma, it can give peace of mind to grieving families.

"Moreover, it will be great education for nurses and doctors."

That is something that dinner lady-turned nurse Pam agrees. "It’s opened up a taboo subject," she added. "I can certainly say it has changed my life. I live every day to the full."

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    john, llanelli  |  March 26 2010, 2:25PM

    i had a near death 11 years ago might have the answer about the mind as i had outer body in spirit.

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    Anon, Swansea, Swansea  |  September 24 2008, 4:59PM

    Glad you liked it Steve! Just to let you know tho this is adrug that knocks you out, eyes closed the lot so it's not distorting any visions, more like giving you the visions from your mind like a dream. And your right, it doesn't explain any of that yet there's no concrete proof that these things actually happen either. It is a mystery, and maybe one that's not supposed to be solved. Where's the fun in knowing all at the end of the day ;o)

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    Helen, Swansea  |  September 20 2008, 10:26AM

    My mum has remembered and told me that she has also had an out of body experience many years ago while doing her nursing training at the old swansea hospital where her late sister was also a nursing officer. she remembers seeing the medical staff and her sister around her bed while she was above looking down on them, it was some kind of flu epidemic many many years ago. I am thankful she came back or i would not be here today. I am also a firm believer in life after death....

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    Steve, Mayals, Swansea  |  September 19 2008, 5:15PM

    Anon Swansea's explanation was fascinating, but it doesn't explain how people in a near death experiences can later provide accurate details of something occurring in a different location, as in Pam's case. Hallucinogens or other drugs may distort visions, but do not provide the viewer with super natural skills. It is an interesting subject.

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    Anon, Swansea  |  September 19 2008, 4:08PM

    There is a gland in the brain called the Pineal glad which produces a chemical called Dimethyltryptamine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyltryptamine) and is only active at birth and death. The chemical Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) causes intense hallucinogenic experiences. DMT can also be man made and is taken recreationally, however this is rare as the drug is not common and very expensive. It will put you into a sleep like state as apposed to other hallucinogenic drugs where it is possible to walk and talk. The effects of this can last from 5 to 30 mins ave. The reports of everyone that have taken the drug show that their visions and experiences have been mostly the same which is rare in hallucinogenic drugs, the main vision being flying down a tunnel with a bright flash of light at the end of it at the beginning of the trip, such as the ones reported in near death experiences. Also, the feeling of being "out of your body" is reported frequently. It is possible that when you are in this state naturally you are aware of what is occurring around you and your brain forms a picture such as in a dream. This combined with the out of body feeling that is experienced with the release of this chemical could easily make it seem like your soul or spirit has left your body and is viewing your surroundings. The brain is a wonderful thing, and without the chemical reactions it produces we would never be able to get drunk, dream, feel love and pleasure and indeed have these near death experiences. The pineal gland is also referred to as the spirit gland, and more commonly the third eye as it (supposedly, I do not know this for fact) has a cornea and retina! I believe that it is this gland that needs to be researched further in order to uncover some of the mysteries of the experiences reported. Either that or there's always the idea that was used for the film Flatliners ;o) Any volunteers?

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    Steve, Mayals, Swansea  |  September 19 2008, 2:25PM

    It is commonly accepted in much of the planet that the brain and mind are separate entities. It will be interesting to see if these tests proof this understanding, and so bring Western science in line with traditional wisdom.

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    josh, mumbles  |  September 19 2008, 10:28AM

    this is not news !!! i worked in morriston years ago when this study was underway, it provided no evidence whatsoever

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    John Burke, Maryland, US  |  September 18 2008, 7:53PM

    When I was about three years old I nearly drowned when I stepped off a pier into deep water. I quickly went from black to a bright white place. I was not afraid but very calm. I began to see people's faces. I had no idea who they were. Also, I began to see a city skyline while I seemed to be floating high above. Again, I have no idea where this city is. Suddenly, everything began to go black, and I thought that I was dying and a was very frighten. The next thing I remember is that I was out of the water with my aunt and crying. What is strange to me is that although I was only about three years old, in this state I was thinking like an adult. Also, why were all these strange faces and places being shown to me, was this a past life experience?