Interesting Journal article in Lancet; Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands

  • Lancet 2002 Apr 6;359(9313):1254.



Some people report a near-death experience (NDE) after a life-threatening crisis. We aimed to establish the cause of this experience and assess factors that affected its frequency, depth, and content.


In a prospective study, we included 344 consecutive cardiac patients who were successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest in ten Dutch hospitals. We compared demographic, medical, pharmacological, and psychological data between patients who reported NDE and patients who did not (controls) after resuscitation. In a longitudinal study of life changes after NDE, we compared the groups 2 and 8 years later.


62 patients (18%) reported NDE, of whom 41 (12%) described a core experience. Occurrence of the experience was not associated with duration of cardiac arrest or unconsciousness, medication, or fear of death before cardiac arrest. Frequency of NDE was affected by how we defined NDE, the prospective nature of the research in older cardiac patients, age, surviving cardiac arrest in first myocardial infarction, more than one cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during stay in hospital, previous NDE, and memory problems after prolonged CPR. Depth of the experience was affected by sex, surviving CPR outside hospital, and fear before cardiac arrest. Significantly more patients who had an NDE, especially a deep experience, died within 30 days of CPR (p<0.0001). The process of transformation after NDE took several years, and differed from those of patients who survived cardiac arrest without NDE.


We do not know why so few cardiac patients report NDE after CPR, although age plays a part. With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.

Link to Full Article:

Elements of NDE
Frequency (n=62)
1 Awareness of being dead 31 (50%)
2 Positive emotions 35 (56%)
3 Out of body experience 15 (24%)
4 Moving through a tunnel 19 (31%)
5 Communication with light 14 (23%)
6 Observation of colours 14 (23%)
7 Observation of a celestial landscape 18 (29%)
8 Meeting with deceased persons 20 (32%)
9 Life review 8 (13%)
10 Presence of border 5 (8%)
NDE=near-death experience.
Table 2: Frequency of ten elements of NDE

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Replies to This Discussion

While this research and journal article are several years old, it has excellent research methodology and analysis.  It is worth the time to read the various tables of analysis results:

Table 1: Distribution of the 344 patients in five WCEI classes

Table 2: Frequency of ten elements of NDE

Table 3: Factors affecting frequency and depth of near-death experience (NDE)

Table 4: Significant differences in life-change inventory-scores of patients with and without NDE at 2-year follow-up

Table 5: Total sum of individual life-change inventory scores of patients at 2-year and 8-year follow-up


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