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Near-Death Experiences in a Pediatric Population

Authors:
  • Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness

Abstract

• Numerous accounts of a unique psychological state associated with near-fatal events have been described in adults; however, we know of no studies in the medical literature of the nature or incidence of such experiences in children. Four of seven children who survived cardiopulmonary arrests or coma associated with trauma, drownings, or hyperosmolar states reported near-death experiences. Their subjective accounts of their experiences included a sense of being out of the body, traveling in a tunnel or staircase, seeing beings dressed in white, and a decisional return to the body. Six patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit for epiglottitis, heart surgery, or Guillain-Barré syndrome, all of whom had mechanical ventilatory support and were treated with anesthetic agents and narcotics, had no memories of the time they were unconscious. Clearly, children report near-death experiences similar to ones previously described in adults. Further systematic study of this phenomenon is indicated. (AJDC 1985;139:595-600)
Article
This study aims to conduct a search of publications investigating experiences commonly associated with the possibility of the existence of a consciousness independent of the brain held on the main scientific databases (Pubmed, Web of Knowledge, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and Scopus). Of the 9065 articles retrieved, 1954 were included (598 near-death experiences, 223 out-of-body experiences, 56 end-of-life experiences, 224 possession, 244 memories suggestive of past lives, 565 mediumship, 44 others). Over the decades, there was an evident increase in the number of articles on all the areas of the field, with the exception of studies on mediumship that showed a decline during the late 20th century and subsequent rise in the early 21st century. Regarding the types of articles found, with the exception of past-life memories and end-of-life experiences (mostly original studies), publications were predominantly review articles. The articles were published in journals with an impact factor similar to other areas of science.
Article
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Near-death experiences (NDEs) are vivid experiences that often occur in life-threatening conditions, usually characterized by a transcendent tone and clear perceptions of leaving the body and being in a different spatiotemporal dimension. Such experiences have been reported throughout history in diverse cultures, and are reported today by 10% to 20% of people who have come close to death. Although cultural expectations and parameters of the brush with death influence the content of some NDEs, near-death phenomenology is invariant across cultures. That invariance may reflect universal psychological defenses, neurophysiological processes, or actual experience of a transcendent or mystical domain. Research into these alternative explanations has been hampered by the unpredictable occurrence of NDEs. Regardless of the causes or interpretations of NDEs, however, they are consistently associated with profound and long-lasting aftereffects on experiencers, and may have important implications for non-experiencers as well.
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According to terror management theory, fear of death is one of the most profound of human anxieties. Yet, the near-death experience (NDE) and its associated pattern of after-effects represent an intriguing exception to this theory. Studies indicate the loss of the fear of death is an instantaneous and pervasive after-effect of NDEs. Some theorists propose this elimination of death fear could be related to the sense of disembodiment felt during the NDE. In this article, we expand on previous theories by suggesting the combination of four specific elements of the NDE directly influence the loss of the fear of death, including: the sense of disembodiment, positive emotional content, meeting and greeting with deceased others and spiritual beings and exposure to a bright otherworldly light. We conclude by making suggestions for future research endeavours in this area, and their potential beneficial implications for health service delivery, particularly in end-of-life care.
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CONTEXTO: Quando algumas pessoas vivenciam um estado próximo da morte, elas referem uma experiência profunda de transcender o mundo físico, o que freqüentemente as conduz a uma transformação espiritual. Estas "experiências de quase-morte" (EQMs) são relevantes para os clínicos pois produzem mudanças nas crenças, nas atitudes e nos valores; podem ser confundidas com os estados psicopatológicos, embora tenham conseqüências diferentes necessitando terapêuticas diferentes; e, por fim, porque podem ampliar a nossa compreensão em relação ao fenômeno da consciência. OBJETIVOS: Esta revisão de literatura examina as evidências relacionadas às explicações que têm sido propostas para o fenômeno das EQMs, incluindo expectativa, memórias do nascimento, alterações nos gases sangüíneos, alucinações tóxicas ou metabólicas e modelos neuroquímicos e neuroanatômicos. MÉTODOS: A literatura sobre EQM dos últimos 30 anos foi revisada de modo abrangente, incluindo bases de dados médicas, de enfermagem, psicológicas e sociológicas. RESULTADOS: As EQMs tipicamente produzem mudanças positivas em atitudes, crenças e valores, mas também podem levar a problemas interpessoais e intrapsíquicos. Esses problemas, embora tenham sido comparados a vários transtornos mentais, diferem desses quadros psicopatológicos. Várias estratégias terapêuticas têm sido propostas para ajudar indivíduos que apresentam conseqüências problemáticas de uma EQM, mas tais intervenções ainda não foram testadas. CONCLUSÕES: A consciência mística e o funcionamento mental intensificado durante uma EQM, quando o funcionamento cerebral está gravemente prejudicado, são um desafio para os modelos atuais sobre a interação cérebro/mente e podem, eventualmente, levar a modelos mais completos para o entendimento da consciência.
Article
A paucity of literature exists for pediatric neardeath experiences with only thirteen cases reported thus far. Morse and his colleagues have called for additional welldocumented cases to further our knowledge of children’s neardeath experiences. The present case study is of a boy who had an NDE due to nearly drowning when he was seven years old. Besides adding to the sparse pediatric NDE population, this case presents a variation of the tunnel experience not before reported in either the adult or the pediatric NDE literature. Instead of seeing deceased friends or relatives or sensing a presence while in the tunnel, this boy was comforted by two of his family’s pets who had died prior to the neardrowning incident.
Article
History and research on near-death experiences are reviewed and evaluated under five categories: frequency, measurement, patterns, aftereffects, and explanations. Major findings, inconsistencies, and controversies are summarized. Recommendations for future research are made, and the problems encountered when researching near-death experiences are discussed.
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Mit der Entwicklung der Möglichkeiten der Notfallmedizin in den letzten drei Jahrzehnten hat die Anzahl von Patienten, die lebensbedrohliche Situationen unbeschadet überleben, deutlich zugenommen. Zusammen mit einem in den 70er Jahren aufgetretenen großen Interesse der Öffentlichkeit an paranormalen Phänomenen dürfte dies die Erklärung sein, dass ein Phänomen, das seit Jahrtausenden bekannt ist, nun auch Zugang in die wissenschaftliche Literatur gefunden hat. Wir sprechen vom sog. Nah-Tod-Erlebnis (»neardeath experience»; NDE), der Beschreibung von visuellen und akustischen Wahrnehmungen durch Personen nach lebensbedrohlichen oder anderen Extremsituationen. Die Wahrnehmungen werden zu einem Zeitpunkt erlebt, in dem objektiv kein Bewusstsein vorhanden ist, das Erlebte scheint sich teilweise jenseits der Realität zu bewegen.
Article
In the cases of 107 patients who reported unusual experiences during an illness or injury, such as seeing their own body from a different position in space, medical records were obtained for forty patients. These were examined and rated according to the evidence they provided of grave, life-threatening illness or injury. Eighteen patients (45%) were judged to have had serious, life-threatening illnesses or injuries, but twenty-two (55%) were rated as having had no life-threatening condition. Nevertheless, thirty-three (82.5%) of the patients believed that they had been “dead” or near death. Deficiencies in the medical records may account for a few of the discrepancies between patients' reports and medical records. However, it seems likely that an important precipitator of the so-called near-death experience is the belief that one is dying—whether or not one is in fact close to death.
Article
The near-death experience literature includes many accounts of adults who have had near-death experiences as adults or when they were children. The literature also reveals a few accounts of children reporting on their childhood near-death experiences. But the literature does not contain a single case of a near-death experience happening at birth, until the reporting of this case. Not only is this case interesting because it is a birth near-death experience, recalled through the medium of dreams, but because the respondent was born in the Philippines, adding cross-cultural validation to the phenomenon of the near-death experience. This is something the literature has called for in the past. Additionally, unlike the vast majority of near-death experiences, this one had a negative affective quality to it, which is discussed in detail through the use of Grey's typology of negative near-death experiences.
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