New research on deathbed visions has been published by a Buffalo, NY, college.
In interviews with 66 dying patients, the investigators found that near-death dreams and visions don’t resemble typical dreams and are distinctive from the hallucinations or confusion associated with medications, dementia or illness.
Nearly 90 percent of the patients in the studies reported having at least one near-death dream or vision, and 99 percent of those believed the dreams or visions to be real. About 50 percent of the experiences occurred while the person slept, 16 percent while they were awake, and the rest while both asleep and awake. ... Religious content was minimal, but there was a common existential thread. ...
Previous studies suggest that as many as 60 percent of conscious dying patients experience end-of-life dreams and visions, but the actual number likely is higher because the phenomenon is considered underreported by patients and family members for fear of embarrassment.
Although the study is touted as the "first rigorous examination" of deathbed visions, I don't think this is accurate. Osis and Haraldsson's classic study At the Hour of Death preceded it by decades.
Despite some talk of the importance of opening up to spirituality in hospice care, the study seems to take it for granted that these visions are "dreams" whose only function is to comfort the patient as he or she expires.
“It’s a built-in mechanism for soothing a dying patient,” said Dr. Christopher Kerr, chief medical officer at Hospice Buffalo.
Be that as it may, the fact that the phenomenon is getting more attention can only be a good thing.