December 2008, a very interesting Buddhist conference called Closer-to-Reality: Understanding Death and Beyond was held at the Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Together with Buddhist Bardo Teachings on afterlife states, the conference also included sessions about Near-Death Experiences and Out-of-Body Experiences in an attempt to “connect real life experiences with Buddhist scriptural understanding.”
4 to 15% have had a near-death experience – almost 800 times a day in the US
Surveys from the US, Australia and Germany estimate that between 4 and 15% of the population have had a near-death experience. In 1982 a Gallup poll estimated that 8 million Americans have had a near-death experience and a more resent study, a US News & World Report in March of 1997, found that 15 million have had the experience. Also a Gallup and Proctor survey from 1981 estimated that 15% of Americans may have had a near-death experience. Based on these numbers, the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation estimates that 774 people have a near-death experience each day in the US.
It can happen to anyone
In 2006, after being hit by a road side bomb in Iraq, ABC anchor Bob Woodruf had a near-death experience, which he revealed live on CNN:
18% of survivors of cardiac arrest have a near-death experience
In 2001, the first prospective scientific study of near-death experiences was published in the international medical journal The Lancet. Set up in 14 hospitals over a 10-year period the study found that 18% of people who were clinically dead after suffering cardiac arrest and then successfully resuscitated had a near-death experience.
Near-death experiences seem to occur during clinical death
The International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) found that of more than 800 near-death experiences, 25% reported that the experience occurred during clinical death. Also Peter Fenwick found that 10% of the people in his research said that they had their near-death experience during ‘unconsciousness,’ and Penny Satori found that people were able remember the onset of their resuscitation process at a time when they were clinically dead.The most famous case is the case of Pam Reynolds, who during a very complicated brain operation in 1991 was clinically dead for 55 min. during which time she was able to observe and hear things in the operating room that were later verified.
Near-death experiences suggest life after death
Most people, 80 – 90%, who have a near-death experience will say that they are certain that life continues after death. But also the scientific evidence would seem to point in this direction if in fact the near-death experience occurs during clinical death. About 15 seconds after cardiac arrest the brain becomes completely inactive due to lack of oxygen, and therefore, no experience – not even a hallucination – should be possible during clinical death.Based on this the near-death experience is a challenge to classical science where skeptics are forced to argue that the near-death experience happens before the brain becomes inactive. This is where the debate stands.