In the comments thread of my recent post on near-death experiences, two people who have published articles on the subject offered their thoughts. Since these contributions may have gotten a bit lost in the sometimes overly spirited give-and-take of the discussion, I thought I would repost them here.
The specific focus of these remarks is the so-called "dentures case," which is described in the main text of the earlier post.
First, three comments from Dr. Gerald M. Woerlee, an anaesthesiologist who argues that there is no evidence for a paranormal interpretation of the dentures case, or of NDEs in general.
Dr. Woerlee's first comment:
What a fascinating number of reactions and entries to a blog about something which people can only speculate because the articles are as yet unpublished.
To begin with – I enjoyed the appalling limericks.
But now is the time to set the matter straight as regards some details, because the discussion on this blog is somewhat unproductive.
I believe my reaction to Rudolph Smit’s 2008 article will be published in the Summer JNDS. My reaction was first submitted in January 2009. The undoubtedly devastating reaction of R.Smit has taken somewhat more than a year to compose. I must confess to being just as interested in his reponse as all you bloggers. These articles are under embargo until publication.
Now for the facts of the case.
- The incident occurred late in 1979.
- The man collapsed in a field near the village of Ooij which is located near Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
- He was resuscitated in the Canisius Hospital in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
- Pim van Lommel was not associated with the case at all. He commenced work in the east of the Netherlands in 1980, and in quite a different city – Arnhem.
- The man concerned died soon after discharge from hospital.
- Pim van Lommel learned of this case from an incomplete interview of TG performed during the 90’s circulating in the NDE association of the Netherlands.
- Lommel published a very abbreviated account of this story in his 2001 Lancet article, without referring to the year in which the incident occurred.
- Titus Rivas and R.Smit conducted a very extensive, thorough, interview with the nurse (TG) in charge of the nursing aspects of the resuscitation during the course of 2008. This is 29 years after the event!
- The transcript was published in the Autumn 2008 edition of “Terugkeer”, the journal of the Netherlands NDE association. It is in Dutch, but maybe R.Smit or another will translate it into English for you one day. I will not.
- The interview corresponds with the earlier interview, and this incident was evidently a landmark event in the nurse’s life. In my opinion it is an accurate account of the events as remembered and perceived by TG at the time.
- It is a very revealing account, in that it clearly demonstrates the physiological basis of the NDE and OBE story.
However, you will have to wait for the JNDS article to read this explanation, and R.Smit’s devastating reply which I too am patiently awaiting. In the meantime try and see if someone will translate the transcript for you.
His second comment:
One last comment. I have for some time maintained a website with a detailed analysis of the factual elements of the extensive, and very good 2008 transcript of the "man with the dentures" case. This provides an enormous amount of factual details referred directly to pages in the transcript.
the address is: http://unholylegacy.woerlee.org/veridical-near-death.php
The facts related by the transcript are the only known facts about this case. They are all we have by which it can be judged.
I cannot give the original transcript because this is copyright of "Merkawah". Moreover, it is in Dutch, so I do not know whether you would be any wiser for this. Perhaps "Merkawah", or R.Smit will provide an English translation. I will not.
This website contains a wealth of all known information about this case together with my analysis. I will not enter into correspondence about it because my days are filled with many other obligations. So for more information and analysis, you will have to wait for my JNDS article and the devatating reply of Smit.
His third comment:
Next, we have some remarks by Rudolf H. Smit, who (as mentioned by Dr. Woerlee) investigated the "dentures" NDE and wrote a paper on it.
Mr. Smit's first comment:
His third comment:
His fourth comment:
First of all, I received confirmation about the timing of the switching-on of the Thumper. Remember that Woerlee selected the first option (because that one suited him best) whereas nurse TG had insisted that the second had been the correct one. The cardiologist I consulted said that it is not at all easy to intubate a patient when the Thumper is switched on, which is why intubation is only done when the Thumper is switched off. Hence, the second option is the correct one: first intubate, next place the ventilation mask, and finally switch on the Thumper.
In response to Paul
Secondly, I cannot agree with some of the statements by contributor Paul. What follows now are italiced snippets from his contribution dated August 18, 2010, at 5:23 AM, each followed by my response.
I agree that evidence cannot be dismissed purely on the basis of its age. Where evidence is old though, the circumstances around how it was recorded, the individuals giving it and any corroboration become, you might agree, even more important. It seems to me there isn't a great deal of independent corroboration here to support TGs version of events. That does not mean he is not telling the truth or is wrong - it simply makes it more difficult for me (so what?) to accept that report as being 'very evidential' (other than to TG and the patient).
Dear Paul – It can even be worse: one can easily allege, like the diehard skeptics do, that the whole story is nothing but a fabrication by someone who wished to become a celibrity of sorts? But there is no evidence for it whatsoever.
Look, there are NOT only two possibilities (evidential versus non-evidential), but all sorts of gradations inbetween. 'Evidential enough to be taken seriously and not be ignored' is enough here.
The case in its own right is sufficiently strong to be problematic when trying to fit into the materialistic world view.
It is true that significant events definitely do leave much more of an impression on our memories than mundane activities. The issue it seems to me here is in the details of what happened. Could it not be that after such a period of time, TG believed he/she remembers the details correctly but that the actual detail is incorrect?
Sorry Paul, I appreciate your concerns but what you are saying here can hardly make sense, unless you want to be even more of the debunking type than the average CSICOPer. There cannot be much of incorrectness of detail, certainly not when we look at the core of the case. It would imply that TG could have been enormously impressed by an experience he himself had never had gone through and thus had fooled himself right from the beginning – a typical skeptical non-explanation, by the way: the whole story was dreamed up due to the tensions he had to endure and which were caused by the considerable responsibility he had to shoulder.
But then one wonders how TG could have remembered this experience so utterly vividly? According to skeptics and their absurd sense of logic: it CANNOT be therefore it MUST have been self-deception. But when you are simply open-minded then you have to go where the evidence leads you. And whatever one may think, the evidence in this case points at something that does not fit into the materialistic world view. Even Woerlee himself has not for one moment said that TG must have fooled himself due to the stressfulness of the entire incident. TG did a good job, i.e. resuscitating an evidently very hard to treat patient – something he had done before however, hence he was not an unexperienced cardiac nurse. The only possible stressful factor was that he had to carry most of the responsibility, since he was the most experienced one of the four people who gave patient B the required medical treatment. A possible reasoning that this was enough to make TG concoct a perfect story is something that only crazy pseudo-skeptics can come up with. As for that, the explanatory ravings of pseudo-skeptics are often more absurd than seemingly absurd events. But we met in TG a level-headed man who after all those years still does not know what to think of the case as it does not comply with his world views. And such a man would dream up a fantastic story like this one? Too crazy to contemplate such a thought. Just recently TG complained to us that he had ever brought the story into the open. All he wishes now is to be left alone and not be bothered again with the whole nasty fuss around this case.
The encounter with the patient was some days after the event as I understand it. Was there opportunity for others to mention his teeth, the nurse who resuscitated him, TG's name, when he would be on-duty next etc?
Paul – I already discussed this, remember? It might have happened but as far as we know, it did not happen, period. But then, so what? See further.
It seems to me there could well have been such an opportunity. Did it happen? TG probably does remember how likely or unlikely this is but is it impossible?
This is very unlikely when one considers the fact that TG was very much impressed by what the patient had said, which did not limit itself to “You, yes you, you know where my dentures are!” On the contrary, this patient went on talking about an incident that in fact was an NDE with an OBE, a concept that was hardly known in 1979. Most certainly, patient B himself did not know about this; he was quite an ordinary man, a no-nonsense figure, in his daily life a steelbender who did not care much about esoteric things. (In general, the Dutch are known for their “nuchterheid” = common sense, which certainly applies to the less-educated.)
Besides, it is more likely that B kept the information about his resuscitation to himself, realizing that the chance of being believed was greater with the nurse who actually resuscitated him, than with the attending personnel in the ward where he was at the time.
In this respect, is should be noted that when TG tried to share his experiences with his fellow nurses, he was met with bewilderment and disbelief. Only one colleague, a KB, believed him and later related the story to Vincent Meyers, one of the founders of IANDS The Netherlands. And as we know, that contact started the ball rolling.
As for the possible events between his leaving the resuscitation room and the moment when he, patient B, first talked to nurse TG ... oh sure, anything could have happened, such as the possibility, as suggested by a skeptic, that he ordered a nurse to roll his hospital bed out and so take him to the resuscitation room to have a very close look at everything in there, while at the same time looking for his dentures. O yes, a possibility... but wouldn’t it be a somewhat remote one? It is more likely that B needed a few days to recover before he could start thinking about the whole affair, and it is also so much more likely that the ward personnel had definitely something else on their mind than pleasing patient B to the aforementioned extent only to help him finding his dentures.
Do realize that also in that period, there was a shortage of nurses and other hospital personnel. There was and is virtually no time for hospital staff to devote to the patients – a big complaint still heard today. I can speak for myself because in February 1980 I also spent a week in a hospital to undergo an operation and got little attention from the nurses, except the truly necessary help.
All in all, what skeptics suggested could indeed have happened, but most likely did not. I repeat, the hospital staff had other things to worry about than dentures, and just as likely – as I pointed out – would not have been aware of, let alone would be interested in, who precisely did the resuscitation.
I do not say this event did not happen and wasn't a true NDE. My reservations are simply, given the nature of the evidence as presented, about this being a 'very evidential example of an NDE'. I don't see it like that. I do think it is a most interesting experience, I do think it is suggestive of an NDE,
Sorry Paul – by all accounts it was an NDE combined with an OBE. With the exception of the tunnel and the light, it had all the hallmarks: patient clinically dead (i.e. no heart beat, no circulation, no breathing, no reflexex, etc), veridical observations from high up at the ceiling above the body, etc.
Of course, any case can be stronger, but no matter what, you cannot ignore this one, or play down its significance. Nothing “suggestive” about it.
particularly the patients general comments about his experience whilst in resus, however these are not reported by the patient, but by a 3rd party - again this doesn't make them wrong but, for some, introduce doubt.
Look Paul, one can go on forever seeding doubts. Of course, the story was related by a third party, yes. But at an early stage it was told to others, one of them being so kind to contact a founding member of IANDS the Netherlands.
But secondly, the two reports show great resemblance and are sober accounts without any embellishments, in correct chronological order and technically okay.
Indeed, it is a pity that patient B has eluded us. Most likely he is dead as I reported in my JNDS article. The team that worked on this case has done everything one could do to locate relatives of B, but that was all to no avail.
It is also a pity that we could not find the three other people of the resuscitation team. As for that, the strict privacy laws of the Netherlands stand in the way.
As for the age of the case, we were told that it already featured in a BBC documentary, of 1990 or thereabouts, hence only 11 years after it happened. We have not been able to find this documentary though.
Suggestive of an NDE - yes I think so. Very good evidence - I am not so sure.
I think to have made my point and rest my case.
And just wait for the double article (Woerlee’s and mine) in the Summer Issue of JNDS.
Rudolf Smit, also on behalf of Titus Rivas (a name to remember!)
PS – I may write another contribution, but not about the dentures case, but on skepticism in general.
So there you have it. Obviously, my sympathies lie more with Mr. Smit, but I think the remarks by both gentlemen deserve more prominent placement than a comments thread that, for a while, became a minefield of competing limericks.
For the full context of these comments and the objections and questions raised by other commenters, please see the original thread.