50+ health * Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Scientists shed light on near-death experiences

Zone default image Carbon dioxide linked to mystical effects

People who have been close to death on the operating table but survived have often spoken of being drawn to a bright light or feeling ecstatically happy or experiencing “out of body” phenomena.

Collectively referred to as Near Death Experiences (NDE), so far no convincing explanation for their occurrence has been found.

Now a scientist has suggested that these may be due to physical causes rather than some supernatural encounter. Patients who reported such experiences were found to have higher levels of the gas carbon dioxide in their blood than those who did not.

Zalika Klemenc-Ketis of the University of Maribor, Slovenia looked at 52 patients suffering from cardiac arrest. Of these 11 claimed to undergo some form of NDE.

In these 11 patients blood levels of carbon dioxide were “significantly higher” than in the other patients.

There was no other link found between the patient’s sex, age, level of education, religious belief, fear of death, time to recovery or drugs given during resuscitation.

But people who had experienced NDEs were more likely to experience them again.

Commenting on the results, Klemenc-Ketis said: "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 study was reported in BioMed Central's open access journal Critical Care.

This article was published on Thu 8 April 2010

Image © Gillotte - Fotolia.com

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