I'm currently reading The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences, by Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf H. Smit. As the title indicates, it's an in-depth study of NDEs with veridical content. The book was originally published, in a slightly different form, in a Dutch edition.
When I started it, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of reading yet another book about NDE's. I felt a little burned out on the subject. But The Self Does Not Die proved to be different from most other books of this type. It is never sensationalistic or overheated; the authors carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses of the various cases, ranking each according to how well documented and authenticated it is. The collection of professionally researched cases is the most comprehensive I've seen. Cases that don't meet the authors' strict criteria are omitted. The overall tone is serious, even a little dry, an approach I like much better than the carnival barker style of some popular accounts.
Though right now I'm in the middle of the book, I did skip ahead to read the authors' conclusions and their coverage of skeptical objections. In the latter section they concentrate on the debunking efforts of anesthesiologist Gerald Woerlee, who has written extensively on the subject and devotes a website to it.
There are far too many cases to summarize, but the one I read just this morning – case 3.33, "Howard," on pages 112-113 – was particularly intriguing. It is drawn from Laurin Bellg's 2015 book Near Death in the ICU, and involves a man who suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. After he had recovered sufficiently to talk, he described an NDE that took place while he was unconscious:
I felt myself rising up through the ceiling and it was like I was going through the structure of the building. I could feel the different densities of passing through insulation. I saw wiring, some pipes and then I was in this other room.
It looked like a hospital but it was different.… It was very quiet and it seemed like no one was there. There were individual rooms all around the edge and on some of the beds were these people, except they were not people, exactly. They looked like mannequins and they had IVs hooked up to them but they didn't look real. In the center was an open area that looked like a collection of work stations with computers.
Dr Bellg, a critical care physician, says her jaw dropped when she heard this. She writes:
I stole a look at the nurse who looked equally surprised. What we knew that Howard didn't, is that right above the ICU is a nurse-training center where new hires spend a few days rotating through different scenarios. There are simulated hospital rooms around the perimeter with medical mannequins on some of the beds. In the center there is indeed a collection of workspaces with computers.
The patient also repeated statements made by Bellg during the resuscitation effort, when he was being defibrillated, and accurately reported who was present during the event.
Though not all the cases are this dramatic, the sheer number of them and the obvious efforts that have been made to substantiate the patients' accounts add up to a powerful argument for the significance of NDEs – not as the hallucinations of a traumatized brain, but as ontologically real events. Readers who are serious about the scientific study, analysis, and interpretation of near-death experiences can't go wrong by reading this important book. My only complaint is that there's no ebook edition. Soon, I hope!