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NDF: Is There Life After Death?

Many of us would have come across or heard of cases where a person, who was declared clinically dead, comes back to life after a few minutes. Many claim to have had a near death experience (NDE), many even have authored books explaining their out of body journey, and one such case was also depicted by the movie ‘Heaven Is For Real’. But the question still lingers – can an NDE really happen?

What is an NDE?

A Near Death Experience, or an NDE, is often described as a state of awareness of being dead where a person experiences being outside of his own body. Many people who have had such an experience reported being elated, feeling secure and experiencing an absolute dissolution. Some also reported passing through a dark tunnel to reach a region that was full of warm light. People may have an altered spatiotemporal boundary and an out-of-body experience where they can see their own bodies lying down, sometimes, even being operated on in a hospital.

Another characteristic that runs common in NDEs for many people is meeting an angel of light, which, interestingly, corresponded to the person’s religious belief. Like, for Christians, it would be a guardian angel, while for Hindus, it was a messenger of the god of death.

There have been many cases where the people reported uniting with their deceased loved ones. Also, they met people dressed in white who were very loving and provided them unparalleled warmth. Some even got a life review and many expressed that they did not want to come back.

Many scholars, like Dr Melvin Morse and Dr Kenneth Ring, have researched on the subject. Dr Melvin Morse wrote a book on the subject titled ‘Transformed by the Light’ where he talks about the changes that happened in the lifestyle and behaviour of people who had an NDE. Dr Kenneth Ring established, among many other things, how a blind woman named Vicki Umipeg, could see during her NDE.

Does this mean ‘heaven is for real’?

The answer to this question is still as wrought in doubt as ever. There are case studies of NDEs where even people who did not believe in reincarnation experienced it, defying the religious aspect to the experience. A study by University of Maribor, in Slovenia, claimed that this phenomenon could be a trick of the mind. They said it is caused by a chemical reaction in the body. “Several theories explaining the mechanisms of near death experiences exist. We found that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not,” said its lead researcher.

Another research conducted by University of Michigan in 2013 was carried out on dying rats. It found out that after their hearts stopped, within the next 30 seconds there was a surge in the brain activity, indicating highly aroused mental states. The lead author of the study Jimo Bojigan said, “In fact, at near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting that the brain is capable of well-organized electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.”

On the contrary is the case study of Colton Burpo, the 14-year-old whose story was told in the movie and book titled ‘Heaven Is For Real’, authored by his own father. The exemplary part of Colton’s NDE is that he could explain things he did not know before his emergency surgery, during which the NDE happened. For example, he said he met his unborn sister, an incident his parents never mentioned to him and met his great grandfather, who died 24 years before he was born. Miraculously, he could explain his great grandfather in much detail, despite never having seen him in reality.

Similar is the story of Anita Moorjani, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2002. On February 2, 2006, she fell into a deep coma. “The senior oncologist looked at me and told my husband that it was now the end, and that my organs were now shutting down. I would probably not make it beyond the next 36 hours,” she said later. But she came out of the coma after three days, having had an NDE. During her experience, she met her deceased father and best friend and said that she was reluctant to come back. The miraculous part followed after this as her body’s tumors shrunk by 70 per cent within four days of the NDE. Within the next three weeks, she was cancer-free.

The answer to the question of an afterlife remains as murkier as ever. Science may have refuted the theory, while religion upholds it, but it is no more this black and white a question. Many miraculous case studies have even put scientists at an unsure spot and they are looking for more concrete answers to this ever unfolding debate.

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