And the answer is: Not likely. The new study suggests that common reports of such experiences—feelings of peace and joy, movement toward a bright light, profoundly spiritual emotion—are the result of oxygen deprivation caused by elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.
Oh, pesky science!
The study, by Slovenian researchers and published in the medical journal Critical Care, examined 52 heart-attack patients in three large hospitals, Yahoo's Live Science site reported.
Of those, 11 reported having near-death experiences during their heart attacks; other studies suggest that between 10 percent and 25 percent of heart-attack survivors report such experiences.
But, according to the study:
People who report near-death experiences have elevated levels of carbon dioxide in their blood and may be suffering oxygen deprivations. ...
Exactly why has remained a mystery, but the new study provides a clue. The link between oxygen deprivation in the brain and near-death experience has been suggested for many years. British researcher Dr. Susan Blackmore, author of "Dying to Live: Near-Death Experiences" (Prometheus Books, 1993), notes that many NDEs (such as euphoria and the feeling of moving toward a white light) are in fact typical symptoms of oxygen deprivation. ...
Not only are the symptoms of anoxia (oxygen deprivation) very similar to the symptoms of an NDE, but patients who had the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide in their blood reported significantly more NDEs than those with lower levels.
The euphoria? Caused by endorphins released to dampen the pain of heart attack.
What do you think? Anyone out there see the light?