For more than twenty years van Lommel systematically studied such near-death experiences in a wide variety of hospital patients who survived a cardiac arrest. In 2001, he and his fellow researchers published his study on near-death experiences in the renowned medical journal The Lancet. The article caused an international sensation as it was the first scientifically rigorous study of this phenomenon. It opens up the age-old question of what happens when you die and what happens after death.
Pim van Lommel
Dr. Pim van Lommel, a renowned cardiologist, is the first medical practitioner to have undertaken a full, systematic study of near-death experiences (NDEs). As a cardiologist, he was struck by the number of his patients who claimed to have near-death experiences as a result of their heart attacks. As a scientist, this was difficult for him to accept: Wouldn’t it be scientifically irresponsible of him to ignore the evidence of these stories? Faced with this dilemma, van Lommel decided to design a research study to investigate the phenomenon under the controlled environment of a cluster of hospitals with a medically trained staff.
Consciousness Beyond Life
In his book Consciousness Beyond Life van Lommel offers an in-depth presentation of his results and theories. He writes that according to our current medical concepts it is not possible to experience consciousness during a cardiac arrest, when circulation and breathing have ceased. But during the period of unconsciousness due to a life-threatening crisis like cardiac arrest patients may report the paradoxical occurrence of enhanced consciousness experienced in a dimension without our conventional concept of time and space, with cognitive functions, with emotions, with self-identity, with memories from early childhood and sometimes with (extra-sensory) perception out and above their lifeless body. For him, the prevailing materialistic view of doctors, philosophers and psychologists on the relationship between brain and consciousness is too limited to be able to interpret the phenomenon. There are good reasons to believe that our consciousness does not always coincide with how our brains function: it can also be experienced independently of our body.