The following is excerpted from The Science of Near-Death Experiences edited by John C. Hagan MD
Physicians and others who treat terminally ill patients sometimes hear the poignant and heart-wrenching question: “What is it like to die?” Yet the answer always seems beyond the scope of the medical profession and perhaps even beyond the reach of human knowledge. This trailblazing book about near-death experiences provides a partial answer that informs clinicians and comforts dying patients.
— Dr. Raymond Moody (Foreword to The Science of Near-Death Experiences)
What happens to consciousness during the act of dying? Our best answer comes from people who “almost die” but return to life and recall events that occurred while resuscitation, emergency care, or surgery was performed to snatch life back from the jaws of death. As our medical and surgical skills increase, we can bring back patients who have traveled further on the path to death than at any other time in history. Their recollections often refute physicians’ scientific explanation of how an oxygen-starved brain can produce such intense, vivid, and often corroborated veridical recollections. These events are now called “near-death experiences” (NDEs) and are often life-changing for those people who have them.
Near-death experiences deserve greater unique and innovative scientific research. As Dr. Nelson presently believes perhaps NDEs are explained by neurophysiology and are just brain ‘smoke and mirrors’ trickery. Alternately, as Dr. Alexander and most of our other physician-scientist authors believe, we may be nearing the point where science proves that NDEs are real events occurring in a different, possibly spiritual rather than material, dimension and will ultimately be scientifically validated but are far beyond the powers of evidence-based science to understand and interpret. –John C. Hagan III, MD
Modern medicine and the ancient discipline of philosophy may seem far apart. However, philosophical reasoning is exactly what is needed to grapple with the question of life after death. The greatest philosophical minds pointed out those questions about an afterlife are incommensurable with the Aristotelian logic that underlies ordinary reasoning. Therefore, the emergence of the afterlife question within clinical practice of medicine presents exciting challenges calling for new methods of conceptual analysis. The time is right for innovative rational inquiry into the biggest question of human existence. This book, the first compiled by a respected, main-stream peer-reviewed medical journal, is a bold step in that direction. — Dr. Raymond Moody
John C. Hagan III, MD is a board certified ophthalmologist and was the founder of Midwest Eye Institute of Kansas City. He has published more than 140 scientific articles and designed several surgical instruments. He is the editor of Missouri Medicine: The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association and lives in Kansas City, MO.
Dr. Hagan believes that physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals need to know how to recognize and respond appropriately to NDEs or near-death experiences. When people are resuscitated from almost dying and report a supernatural experience, it has profound effects on them and their family.
Dr. Hagan has lectured extensively on the subject of near-death experiences at medical schools and hospitals across the United States.