Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Secret Squirrel


What is happening to the AWARE II study? That is the question that myself, Peter (who is a bit of an internet sleuth and able to dig up all kinds of valuable tidbits), and I’m sure many others are wondering. Such is the state of angst among those in the NDE community that someone even asked if I was Sam Parnia! Unfortunately, I am not, if I were I would obviously know what is happening with AWARE II.

So why the angst? Any of you who check up on the AWARE II status at the UK research gateway site, will have noticed that the study has disappeared and the link just returns an error code. Other searches, such as don’t yield any hits at all. This is a relatively recent development, and so what is happening?

There are a number of potential explanations:

  1. Conspiracy Theorist’s Explanation:

The global elite have suppressed this study as the idea that man is potentially spirit and therefore his destiny should not revolve solely around consumption of junk food, junk TV and disposable everything, challenges the economic model upon which they maintain their elite status.

Trump supporters variation of this: Hilary Clinton, through her network of New World Order chums somehow applied pressure for the study to stop, possibly using James Comey in a double bluff type situation.

  1. Pessimist’s Explanation:

The study has been shut down for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Ran out of money.
  2. Exceptionally poor recruitment.
  3. Issues with ethics committees.


  1. Optimist’s explanation:

They have enough hits (as in confirmed, scientifically validated OBEs) to provide convincing evidence that OBEs and therefore NDEs are a real phenomenon. As I write this, Dr Parnia is straightening his Bow Tie in preparation for a press conference in which he will announce the findings that will change forever the way man looks at himself (at least the sceptics).

  1. Realist’s explanation:

The study team have taken the study off the UK research portal as they are making some changes to the design, or evaluating whether to continue.

So there is something that Peter dug up which may help inform us a little. The link below is to a series of slide sets that a certain Caitlin O’Neill of Stony Brook hospital in New York state, presented to study teams in the UK (Barts, a couple of other London hospitals, Birmingham and Southampton). In these presentations Caitlan presents the current recruitment status of each site, and opens up a discussion on ideas on how to improve recruitment, such as providing cash incentives to the investigating teams to improve their stats.

Link to presentations

Before I give my thoughts on what this means for the status of the study, there are a few details from the slides that are worth noting.

Firstly, at the time of these presentations the recruitment total stood at about 108 (I only counted once, so may have got it wrong). This explains the need for the talks, they are half way through the study in terms of time and a long way off their target of about 1000 patients.

Secondly, this is not all bad news. It appears that this time they are being much more selective in their inclusion criteria. If the subject spontaneously came around (ROSC) after their Cardiac arrest (CA), they were excluded; if the specialist crash cart with the screens didn’t appear before the patient had been resuscitated, they were excluded. This means that all 108 of those patients who were included had the right equipment and personnel present at the time of their resuscitation. Given that only about 10% of people report having NDEs after dying and coming back, and that of these only about 20% report an OBE, the chances of a hit are quite slim…but not vanishingly so. I would wager that at least one of these patients reported an NDE with an OBE, but did they see the images on the screen…was there scientific validation? All speculation on my part of course.

Thirdly, the issues the team seem to face are mostly resource related, in respect of the fact that staff weren’t around to rush to the event. This is where the offer of further financial incentive presumably comes in…more cash may mean more resources available.

So what does this mean? Well, I don’t think Hilary has had the opportunity to interfere at this stage, but what about the other possible explanations? They clearly haven’t run out of money if they are offering to increase the rewards for recruitment. Clearly there is poor recruitment, but they don’t appear to have given up at this stage (of course it is possible that the feedback at these meetings was so bad, they did decide to walk away). They may have a hit, they may not, but I doubt they have enough at this stage to convince even a soft sceptic, and maybe that is what lies behind this. Maybe they know they are finally on to something and are eager to press on. Of course this may mean that they are making changes, but maybe they aren’t.

These ideas have been running through my head since I learned the study had been removed, and unfortunately the study team are not being very helpful when it comes to responding to emails or calls. In the past Dr Parnia and the study administrator seemed more than happy to help out, but now I get no response to my emails. I have tried phoning a few times, but no one answers…they have gone dark…or they are too busy to talk to the likes of me.

So, given all of this, I remain cautiously optimistic that the study is ongoing. If OBEs are real, then I suspect they may already have a hit from the numbers they have recruited, and it is my hope that this is the case and that the reason for them going all “Secret Squirrel” is that they want to keep their cards close to their chests while they push on to get more hits.

As always, I wish Dr Parnia and his team all the best of luck.


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28 thoughts on “Secret Squirrel

  1. I hope that it is the “darkness before dawn”.


  2. Interesting. There certainly appears to have been an ‘intervention’ meeting / progress meeting. Possibly because the original timescale is up and they need to carry on with an improved recruitment approach. The slide evidence doesn’t say ‘we’re giving up’ to me, but then as you say, who are we to know what happened at these meetings? It is a wonder though why there hasn’t been an update statement anywhere.


    • Yes, the whole lack of communication about status is very frustrating for the likes of us who are watching this so closely. Like I’ve said in previous posts, in my work I am involved in setting up clinical trials, and working with investigators in HIV, and I do know that they tend not be all that forthcoming too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bippy123 on said:

        Ben I hope that they extend the time and start giving out those cash incentives so that this study would be allowed to reach a conclusion . We all believe that it could be one of the most important studies ever .


      • They could also get “lucky” of course. If they get 2-3 confirmed hits early in the study rather than later, then they don’t need to fully enroll. This isn’t like a clinical trial for a drug which normally has to run to the full duration and fully recruit to show effect. Occasionally studies are ended early either because of lack of effect and the DSMB (drug safety monitoring board) says it is harmful for the patients, or sometimes because a drug or methodology is very effective, and continuing the patients on the placebo or alternative regimen is unethical.

        In this study, if they can get enough to validate years of testimony from thousands of people, then it can present an interim analysis…I think it would then have no problem recruiting after doing that. I think 2-3 verified OBEs would suffice.


  3. Parnia was everywhere in December and now we know that the project is still going. Have you heard anything else?


    • Apparently they will be setting up an AWARE page on the Stoneybrook resuscitation site very soon. Hopefully they will be a little more active than they were with the UK research gateway site.

      Liked by 1 person

      • At least we would get a more direct line than some bureaucratic government website. Parnia granted an interview last month where he argued that we have no idea where consciousness comes from and cited that it’s a position that has been previously defended by “Nobel winners” (I suppose that he was referencing the fathers of quantum physics). That stance, at this stage of AWARE II, may hint that he already knows something that we don’t.


  4. Eric, could you link the Sam parnia interview.


    • Here it is:

      Parnia is interviewed around the 33:00, then after a brief interruption comes the segment where he discusses what I quoted. This bodes well for AWARE II, since the lead researcher would not be discussing these types of arguments had there been an negative result (OBE without hit) so far.


      • Great link. I will make that the subject of my next full post, so thanks.

        I do disagree with what you are saying though. Dr. Parnia has been saying this for a very long time. He says pretty much all of that in his Lazarus book. He describes it very objectively…there is no evidence that the brain, or groups of cells can generate consciousness, and that NDEs, and specifically OBEs provide ‘circumstantial evidence’ that support the idea that the conscious is an independent, undiscovered entity. I don’t think that this necessarily hints at that he has, or has not, got something compelling from AWARE II.

        From my perspective, as I’m sure is the case for anyone who is scientifically minded and objective about this subject, if NDEs and OBEs are real ‘external’ phenomenon, then one day, studies like the AWARE II study will provide scientifically verifiable evidence that the conscious can exist outside of the body.

        However, I can guarantee that the hardened skeptics will either call it “fake news”, or suggest that this is a quantum mechanical event.

        Anyway. The fact that there will be a separate webpage on the Stonybrook research website looking at the AWARE II study will be a huge bonus, and may indeed be suggestive of some emerging news. I trust Dr Parnia to be a better guardian of such information than the likes of or indeed myself!


      • Yes, but the book was released during the original AWARE (shortly before results were made public) and he had the case of Mr. A providing an intriguing clue pointing that direction. The methodological shortcomings of the original project basically forced him to do with ambiguous data, based on the September presentation the improved controls only count patients that actually met the criteria. This should deal with most of that ambiguity.

        Anyway, it’s the timing that is truly remarkable, AWARE II should finish its recruitment by May. Statistically, there is a possibility for one or two OBEs in the patients that were already recruited by the time that the September presentation was prepared (we don’t know if they have improved on recruitment since then) and its unlikely that he would say this now, only to be forced to answer to skeptics within a few months why he said such a thing if he knew that there are negative results. Reading between the lines, I’m inclined to think that the project has already succeeded or that there have been no OBEs, otherwise we could expect some hesitation in his arguments.

        Citing quantum mechanics opens an entirety different can of worms, the ideas on quantum mind have been bashed hard by materialists because the open the possibility to things like non-locality, interconnectedness and also an active role in the informational systems that is too much for them and eventually leads us to fundamental consciousness. That kind of consciousness can’t be reduced to computationalism and chemical effects. They want to keep that genie locked up in the bottle labeled “epiphenomena” and quantum effects are too “weird” for that. They may try to claim methodological issues, but once it hits the mainstream there are going to be replications.


      • The thing about this study is that it would be very hard to disprove NDEs, so a negative result in that sense is not a likely outcome. This study will either provide some sort of proof, through validated OBEs, or not add significantly to the data, as with AWARE I.

        I hope your optimism is justified. I do share it somewhat given the drive for further recruitment. My hope is that in September they had one validated OBE, which in my view would be a tough sell to even the mild skeptics, but two, or three starts to become compelling, especially from different sites. My hope is that they pushed harder for more subjects for this reason.

        Another point is that just because the study has the goal to recruit 1000-1500 subjects by May 2017, does not necessarily mean the study would close in May 2017 if they do not reach their target. They may decide to carry on recruiting for longer of they have good reason to do so. Indeed, let’s say they have two validated OBEs at that stage, I suspect that they would present the results and ask for wider participation from more sites, which would be very likely given the huge interest that this would generate.


      • gymcel on said:

        Eric, I think you shouldn’t count the eggs before they hatch. IMO this thing is too good to be true, i mean an eternity of peace in paradise? Come on, even little kids know not to expect such delusions.

        Ben, AWARE 2 can disprove NDEs, if they get OBE hits of seeing the surgery but not seeing the hidden target.

        Even if they get lots of hits of verified hidden target, they’ll be plenty of staunch materialists like Steven Novella who will come up with the lamest excuses, or simply deny the study altogether. I just read about eliminative materialism, it shows just how dedicated some people are against afterlife. Many atheists are religious. They have complete faith in materialism just like the bible thumper.


      • Proving that consciousness is not an epiphenomena and that is may be in independent of the electro-chemical activity in the brain has little to do with “confirming” a particular religious preference… I have no idea where exactly you got that from my comments, since I clearly did not disclose my stances in that regard in any of my posts.

        On the other hand, to cite the strawmens created for mass consumption (mostly by New Atheists) is unfortunately childish and shows a pronounced lack of understanding in matters pertaining both philosophical and epistemological postures. I recommend withdrawing from discussion until you have sufficient knowledge to swim at this depth.


  5. Gymcel, I’m not sure how seeing the surgery but not seeing the targets disproves NDEs. One of the limitations of this study, which is all but impossible to overcome, is the fact that they have only one screen directly above the patient. But sometimes OBE experiencers observe events from a corner of a room.

    I agree with your comments about atheists being fanatically religious though. They believe that there is no God, but they haven’t ever proven it. Ultimately they have faith that nature alone was capable of generating life and the universe, but have no more than circumstantial evidence to support this position. Of course theists, like myself, suffer from a similar lack of “slam dunk” evidence, hence the importance of this study.

    On another note…let’s keep things civil, there is a lot of division going on at the moment, and I would prefer that the general climate of intolerance towards other people’s views does not overflow into this space.

    Thank you!


    • Ben, maybe you should Google what “gymcel” stands for. I think that he may be a troll, and the fact that so far he has only “argued” with the tired talking points that are readily available in the web doesn’t help his case. Personally, I’m not particularly interested in arguing with one that relies on the predigested, but be wary of disruptive people hiding behind a facade of “agnosticism”. Most of the (actually educated) skeptics that I have engaged hide behind that excuse in order to appeal to uninvolved parties.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. gymcel on said:

    Eric, many NDEs report seeing “paradise” (e.g. kim clark). Most only report seeing being of light, but still conform to the wide spread notion of “heaven”. If AWARE 2 gets hits, that’ll give irrefutable evidence that these “heavenly scenes” are real. I don’t understand what you mean by citing strawmens, and I find your comment about withdrawing discussion quite offensive.

    Ben, many skeptics argue the patient constructs a hallucination of the scene from sounds and feelings they experience (e.g. for pam reynolds). If the hidden targets are very easy to see from above the ceiling, and the patients reports being near the ceiling but can’t see any hidden targets, that proves the skeptics are right. About “intolerance of other’s people views”, I forgot to mention many skeptics (like Novella) state things that are plainly wrong, in order to support their arguments. Every time he says “consciousness is generated by the brain” is a fact, and use it to argue against paranormal explanations, when the original of consciousness is precisely the subject of debate. Keith Augustine is another one who state things that are plainly false. I’m agnostic on NDEs but I see many skeptics making false statements and using it to support their arguments.


  7. Pingback: Ongoing AWARE speculation | The you inside

  8. Bippy123 on said:

    Looks like aware has been extended to 2020.
    From dr Parnias twitter page

    Sam Parnia MD PhD‏ @SamParniaMDPhD
    We are presenting the AWAREII study which we anticipate ending July 2020 at the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP).


    • Yes, it’s a numbers game. More sites or more time. Not the most encouraging piece of news, but ties in with previous tidbits of info which have hinted at the poor recruitment. Better to do it right though.


      • Bippy123 on said:

        Correct Ben I totally agree . I’d rather wait 3 more years and have an iron clad study with a larger pool of recruits then something that scepticals could wiggle out of with more excuses .

        To me this is very encouraging as I wanted this time extension from a while back .

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Stefan on said:

    This may be good and may mean that they see any future in this study and it may mean they’re on to something.

    I can’t see them spending three more years on this study if they have nothing or very little to go by, but results may still be inconclusive for now.


    • I agree. I will be creating my next post expanding on what has been said here on these recent developments as not everyone looks in the comments section.

      Also, I have been travelling, so apologies to those who have emailed me, I will reply shortly.


  10. Bippy123 on said:

    Stephan I agree , I really hope dr parnia has a few tasty bones to throw at us .
    Imagine if this is a success in 2020 ? The randi forum will be having multiple anxiety attacks lol


  11. Bippy123 on said:

    No worries Ben . Just wanted to thank you for this invaluable blog . Without it I never would have known about the progress of aware
    Much appreciated my friend


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