In September, medical teams at 25 hospitals across the world revealed they were undertaking the largest study of its kind into Near-Death Experiences (NDE). Researchers want to know if there is any truth in the so-called “out-of-body” incidents reported by gravely ill people.

One of the hospitals taking part in the research is Morriston hospital in Swansea, where Dr. Penny Sartori has become a leading expert on the phenomenon. She gives her own personal insight into why the research is so important — and the impact it has had on her own life.

Her experience

I was caring for the man on the night shift prior to his death. He communicated to me how he was feeling and that he wanted to die. He looked into my eyes and the connection we made was something that profoundly affected me. I was very upset by the way the patient had died and became so depressed that I almost gave up nursing.

I looked for support by doing a nursing course that may give me a greater understanding of death but found that there were no suitable courses available. The only courses concerning death were palliative care courses which have a very different approach to caring for dying patients in intensive care units. So I read all that I could about death and came across NDEs. I was instantly intrigued because people who had undergone a NDE were saying that death is nothing to be afraid of and that it is a wonderful thing.

They described leaving their body and looking down from above then moving through darkness towards a bright light. Some report watching the whole of their life flash before their eyes in a matter of seconds.

Many meet deceased relatives who tell them that it is not their time and they have to go back, some may see a religious figure or a ‘Being of Light.’ Following the experience the person is usually profoundly transformed. My scientific training as a nurse told me that these experiences couldn’t possibly be more than an overactive imagination or some kind of wishful thinking or hallucination as the brain was shutting down as death approached.

The subject of NDEs becomes a very important aspect of the education of all healthcare professionals. This will ensure the best psychological aftercare of patients who have a NDE. As our technology is becoming more advanced so it seems most likely that the incidence of NDEs will increase. — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

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