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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 01:17 GMT
Life after near death

More people are now brought back from the brink


From the corner of the room, Christine Ellingham says she could see emergency medical staff crowding around an unconscious body.

They were desperately trying to revive the woman, and to save her unborn baby.

"I knew that it was me lying on the table. But I was outside of my body, floating in the corner of the room.

"I was very calm and it made perfect sense to me that I should be watching what I understood to be the final moments of my life.


Some scientists say out of body experiences are just the mind's survival mechanism
"I felt absolute peace and serenity. There was light around me and it grew and grew until I couldn't see my body any more.

"Then I felt an amazing sensation of rushing forwards through the light, or rather that the light was rushing back over me.

"I couldn't see him, but I knew that my father, who had died four years previously, was there with me, and I felt totally, totally safe."

She continued: "I felt that my father was almost carrying me, like I was a child again, and then the light slowed and stopped and my father told me that my baby needed me. I felt very sad that I had to leave, but I wanted to be with my baby.

"There was another instant where I was still surrounded by light, and then, bang! I slammed backwards."

She said that the next thing she experienced was "excruciating pain" - and her eyes opened and she saw the nurses she said she had seen from behind just moments ago.

"I cried and cried. I was in so much pain, but I felt an elation and a certainty that both me and my baby were going to live."


Some near death experiences involve floating into the clouds ...
Christine underwent an emergency Caesarian operation, and her son Liam, her first child, was born six weeks early.

She said that she had been planning to go back to work as soon as possible, but instead decided to look after Liam full-time.

She said: "I was spared, and I was spared to look after Liam. I have never been a religious person, but the experience has made me feel secure that there is an afterlife, and the people that I love and have passed away are still there, watching over me and my family."

Professor Paul Badham of Lampeter University - who studies the philosophical implications of near death experiences - said that despite media hype, the phenomenon is quite rare.

However, he says the reports of people who have had near death experiences tend to contain similar elements.

Out of body

"It is very common for people to report going out of their body and looking down on their body," he said

"Going through a tunnel is also a common experience, as is being surrounded by light. The meeting of deceased relatives or friends is also commonly reported.

"People will also say that they feel they are in the presence of a spiritual reality. A Christian may interpret this as Jesus. One atheist who had an out of body experience said that he later realised that this presence was responsible for the governance of the universe."

Prof Badham said that the numbers of people experiencing the phenomena are rising, as medicine improves and pulls more people back from the brink.

He says that people who report near death experience sometimes "see" things that it would have been impossible for them to see if they had been unconscious on an operating table.


Professor Badham: Belief in the afterlife is based on these experiences
He relates the experiences of a man who following an out of body experience was later able to tell his dentist that there were two pennies on top of a cupboard in the room. Upon investigation, the pennies were found exactly where the man said they would be, although they were not visible from ground level.

A hospital on the south coast of England is currently testing the validity of near death experiences by placing unusual objects randomly around a cardiac ward.

If a patient's near death experience report includes the object and its location, weight must inevitably be added to their stories.

And despite medical theories which suggest the phenomena is the result of the mind and body's biological and psychological response to imminent death, the professor says he believes there has to be more to it than just science.

He said: "Not everyone who is near death has this experience - it just does not follow that it is a last physical response to death.

"This is an experience which transcends cultures, religions and classes - I believe this experience is probably the base for our belief in an afterlife."

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See also:
14 Apr 99 |  Hillsborough
Hillsborough's sad legacy
13 Oct 99 |  Medical notes
Post-traumatic stress disorder factfile
13 Oct 99 |  Health
Mental health up close

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