Since psychologist and medical doctor Raymond Moody popularized scientific study of near-death experiences (NDEs) in the 1970s, many researchers (with little funding) have taken up the torch.
Leading NDE researchers discussed the next steps for investigating this phenomenon as part of a panel at the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) 2014 Conference on Aug. 29.
The panelists were Jan Holden, a counselling professor at the University of North Texas, editor of the IANDS Journal of Near-Death Studies, and former IANDS president; Robert and Suzanne Mays, who have studied NDEs for more than 30 years; and Mitch Liester, a psychiatrist and medical doctor in Colorado.
Each speaker chose a few points of focus for future research:
Jan Holden, Professor at the University of North Texas
1. Legitimize study:
It is important for NDE research to reach mainstream society, said Holden, because the messages therein are so important. One of the lessons learned by many NDEers is that “human life has purpose,” Holden said. The importance of compassion also becomes clear. Legitimizing NDE research is key in making the breakthrough to society as a whole, she said.
The first article Holden published on NDEs was a hospital study on veridical perception. Veridical perception refers to cases in which NDEers recall information perceived during their experiences that they apparently could not have otherwise known; the information in these cases can be independently verified.
Holden and her colleagues have compiled all NDE articles published in refereed journals and made them available to members on the IANDS website. Researchers she has worked with have also made great advancements in showing the electromagnetic after-effects in the bodies of NDEers, another measurable component of the phenomenon. She hopes to see all these efforts continued, as they further legitimize NDE studies.
2. Universal nature of NDEs:
Holden cited studies by Jeffrey Long, MD, that show NDEs are similar across many cultures. Virtually no studies have been done in South America or Africa, however, leaving large gaps in the cross-cultural understanding. Holden hopes to see more cross-cultural studies to highlight the universal nature of NDEs.
3. Treating NDEers better:
A recent study of Holden’s, which has just been accepted for publication in an American Psychological Association journal, looks at how NDEs are received by healthcare professionals. She examined 188 cases in which NDEers disclosed their experiences to healthcare providers. The majority, 4 out of 5, received positive or neutral responses.
The remaining 1 out of 5, however, show a greater need for education among healthcare professionals. These negative responses inflicted mental harm, defying the Hippocratic Oath taken by all doctors to do no harm, said Holden.
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