AwareofAware

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

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Summary of Sam Parnia’s NYAS “What happens when we die” event:

Both the afternoon presentations and the evening panel discussion were livestreamed. Only one talk was excluded and that was a presentation by the “Pig Brain Team” from Yale, presumably because there may have been some proprietary technology discussed. They are available to view at the NYAS site now.

Recording of Livestream 1:

Recording of livestream 2: 

Recording of livestream 3 (evening panel discussion):

There was a lot of very interesting content in the afternoon session which can be bucketed into the following themes:

  1. History of resuscitation medicine
  2. Advances in resuscitation medicine and preserving the brain
  3. The ability to revive consciousness, and to what extent depending on damage to the brain
  4. The transformative nature of NDEs

I am not going to go over much of it since most of what was relevant to this blog has been discussed many times before. However, it is what was absent that was notable to me. There was no mention of the data from AWARE II that was presented over the weekend at the American Heart Association meeting and the subject of previous posts. I understand that the focus of the day was resuscitation medicine, but NDEs were discussed and I found it a bit odd there was no mention of the 2 abstracts at AHA considering this was the first data to come out of Dr Parnia’s landmark study. There was the opportunity to pose questions in the comments section on the livestream, and I did ask about the abstracts but there was insufficient time to answer the questions in the room, let alone on line.

The only tidbit that came up was regarding the sounds generated in the Bluetooth headsets. He described it as “timed sounds” that were delivered through these headsets. Does that mean that sounds were administered intermittently and for a timed but limited number of periods, or that there was a continuous stream of sound with the different kinds of sounds timed, and the time at which they changed recorded? This is very important with respect to the direction of the discussion initiated by Tim we had regarding abstract 287 at the AHA meeting. If the sounds weren’t continuous then the fact that one or more of the 4 “NDErs” heard voices from the room would potentially be less relevant, given the findings from abstract 387 depending on whether there was corresponding EEG and rSO2 data that showed sufficient levels of oxygen to support consciousness. I suspect we aren’t going to learn more at this stage and will have to wait till the data is published, which may be many years from now!

Dr Parnia did refer to a number of new studies that will be starting in the next months and years:

future studies

The one that is of most interest to me is the study looking into consciousness during deep hypothermic arrest. This is effectively COOL II. At this stage they are just performing a pilot study to help inform them on design for a larger landmark study. It looks unlikely we will hear anything from this for a number of years, but this has the potential to produce data more efficiently than AWARE II due to the controlled conditions. Also the prospective study into children’s NDEs will provide interesting insights into the differences that have been previously discussed. This will take a long long time as thankfully children are much less likely to be near death, or actually dead, than adults.

He also presented some data that had been collected from going back over historical interviews from numerous NDEs. This has been done before in various publications in IANDS, but I suspect that his team will apply greater systematic and academic rigor. I wasn’t quite sure where these NDEs were sourced from, but they included a whole host of parameters beyond the simple core elements previously described.

Finally, Dr Parnia did get a bit agitated when describing the impatience of the likes of us! He did look at the camera, and actually said that he was speaking “to the camera”…i.e. some of us. Busted! He was insistent that this research takes a long time, that there are not always enough staff to attend CA events etc. This does not explain why he didn’t refer to the abstracts from the weekend, but we must give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that there are protocols etc that he must follow. He did say that there was more data now, but not that much.

I doubt he does come to this site, but if he does, I hope very much that our enthusiasm/impatience doesn’t in anyway hinder his work, or damage what he is trying to do. If it does in any way, then he must tell me. I would rather dial back on the number of my posts than risk his work. If not, as I suspect is the case given how he is disposed to going on TV and talking about NDEs, then he must recognize that it is only natural for people like ourselves who have a keen interest in his work to be eager to learn as much as we can, and express our frustration at not having all the answers now. As always we wish him the very best in his quest to shed light on the nature of consciousness before and after death.

The evening session was just a panel discussion on what had been presented and what they thought about the various different issues. This was very much focused on the resuscitation medicine side of things and potential ethical implications.

Overall it was enjoyable, but for regulars of this blog, nothing new unfortunately. Now I’m going to bed!

Edited to add the morning after:

While there may have been nothing “new” from the perspective of insights into the recent findings from AWARE II, there were a couple of things that happened in the meetings that have refreshed my perspective.

Firstly there was the testimony of the woman who had received CPR for an hour and the doctors were ready to give up, except one, who took over and carried on. That was 10 years ago and now she is well and living a full productive life due to that doctor and modern techniques. Really rammed home to me what an amazing job the likes of Parnia and his team do.

Secondly was the NDE account described by the ER physician Dr. Tom Aufderheide in the panel session in the evening. That was mind blowing and it reminded me of why I first became hooked on the subject of NDEs. We really don’t NEED the results of AWARE II, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of reliable human testimonies, many of them from health care professionals themselves, that one hundred percent corroborate the validity of the OBE. But more than that they attest to the spiritual nature of humans and our ultimate destiny.

On here, we, I, have become so obsessed with the hit, the smoking gun, and I realised last night that I may have lost my focus on the true wonder of these incredible accounts…they are mind blowing. I don’t need AWARE II. I know from my own experience that there is another reality beyond this life. I have experienced it myself, and through the accounts of others. I know I have a soul inside of me…my brain just sometimes forgets!

Anyway, we will continue to follow developments, but Dr Parnia said to the camera, to us, that we must follow the NYU website for any updates. As much as I respect and admire him, I think I will continue to rely on the great contributors here like Tim, David, Eduardo, Z, Samwise, Chad and others who keep finding things on the web now that might just make it to the NYU website in a years time!

 

As I said before…

So, I have now had a chance to review the entire paper that has been published in Resuscitation, and I hate to say it, but I told you so.

In a previous post I pointed out that it is common practice for key results to be released at conferences, and subsequent publications in journals to be a rehash of these results but with far more detail, and discussion, and that is precisely what has happened with this first full publication from the AWARE study (I say first, as I suspect that there will be more in years to come, especially given the recent sizeable grant given to the team by the Templeton foundation). This data has been presented in summary form in Dr Parnia’s book and at the American Heart Association last year.

Basically there were two NDEs which had visual or auditory recall…in other words, they saw or heard stuff. Only one of these was verifiable and involved a 57 year old man who was able to describe accurately what occurred while the resuscitation team got to work on him, and while he was fully unconscious according to the attending Health Care Professionals (HCPs) and the equipment to which he was connected. This account is as plausible as any from the hundreds, if not thousands of similar accounts that have been published in various books and scholarly journals on this subject over the past few decades.

Importantly, there were no instances where patients were able to confirm their NDE by seeing one of the objects inserted on a shelf specifically for the purpose of verifying an out of body experience (OBE). This is disappointing, but when one reads the full details from the paper, it is hardly surprising. As I discuss in my book, Aware of Aware*, the chances of anyone actually seeing one of these objects and recalling seeing it are extremely small, and now that we are able to see the full results from the study, I have come to realise they are even smaller than I originally suggested. (*available in multiple markets as a paperback or ebook at Amazon).

The numbers:

  • There were 2060 cardiac arrests that could potentially have been included in this study
  • Only 330 of these subjects survived
  • Of these 330, only 140 were eligible for further analysis
  • Of the 140, only 101 completed interviews allowing for determination of the incidence of an NDE type experience
  • Of these only 9 (9%- sound familiar?) reported sufficient core elements of the NDE scale to qualify as an NDE
  • As mentioned before, only 2 reported OBEs, one was unable to follow up due to poor health

Other noteworthy facts from the study:

  • Only 22% of the Cardiac Arrests occurred in areas that had shelves with objects installed
  • Neither of the reported OBEs occurred in these areas

The fact these numbers are very much in line with what has been stated before in other studies is reassuring as it does help to underscore the reproducability of results from NDE studies, and consistency across such measures as incidence of NDE and incidence of OBE. However, does the AWARE study say anything new of significance…answer…No. Does it prove NDEs…as much as I would like to say it does, no, it doesn’t. Does that mean that it never will…time will tell, and I suspect that eventually, due to more cases, and better techniques it will, until then we are left exactly where we were yesterday.

Finally, once again we see the figure of 10% come up. As I have mentioned and discussed in numerous posts prior to this, and I discuss in my book, this number is important and we need to ask the question, why do children experience much higher rates of NDE than adults. For reasons I have mentioned previously, it cannot just be a function of memory

While we are still waiting for hard evidence for the existence of the soul through a verified OBE/NDE, I believe those of us who already believe it, should be more concerned about the possibility that this soul we are born with can actually die, and if so, how do we avoid this outcome?

Rationale Behind the Hypothesis

So while we wait for the illusive AWARE results, I will briefly state the rationale behind my hypothesis:

“Even if the AWARE study only has one or two verified OBEs, then this will prove the existence of the soul.”

Firstly, let me qualify that statement as there is an element of hyperbole in the use of the word prove (I’m a writer, it’s in my nature). It’s an extreme position out of a spectrum of possible positions to take if the results of the AWARE study do indeed produce these results. The other extreme is “These patients were clearly told by a nurse or other attending healthcare professional (HCP) what the objects were.” Both are subjective based on personal bias. One comes from complete trust in the data and a pre-existing belief in the existence of the soul (my position). The other comes from complete distrust in the data and a pre-existing belief that there is no spiritual dimension to existence (the Atheist or materialist position).

So why do I have this pre-existing belief?

  • Personal experience: I have had various experiences over the years that have led me to be convinced that man has a soul, and that this part of our being exists beyond the end of physical life
  • Countless millions of others have also had similar experiences
  • Virtually every culture that has come into existence has also believed this (of course, since we all come from the same source, it is possible that our ancestors all inherited a false understanding from the original meme creator)
  • However, the most compelling piece of pre-existing data is the thousands of accounts from credible witnesses (patients and HCPs alike) who have reported NDEs with OBEs, many of these verified verbally by doctors who claim that there is no way the patient could have seen what they did unless they were actually outside of themselves.

From this wealth of pre-existing data about NDEs and the existence of the soul, and due to issues with the design of the original AWARE study, I am of the opinion that only one or two validated OBEs are needed to become the final piece of the jigsaw that proves the existence of the soul. In isolation, no, it would not be enough, but when combined with everything else, it is enough.

Of course there will be plenty who disagree.

Will we be aware of the results of AWARE by the end of the week?

I first became aware of the AWARE study back in 2008. I had become very interested in NDEs after briefly dating a girl who had experienced one herself, this in turn revived memories of my father’s NDE which had so intrigued me when he first described it to me. I read dozens of books on the subject and trawled the web for articles relating to it, and after absorbing the multitude of data, I came to the conclusion that it was highly likely that this was a real experience due to the high number of credible witnesses and the consistency across different demographics. But could I say that it was proven to be real? In all honesty, as a scientist, I could not.

As far as I could see the only way to prove that NDEs were real, was to prove that the OBE (Out of Body Experience) was real. This should be a fairly simple experiment, so I dug deeper to see if anyone had attempted this and that is when I came across the AWARE study. Unfortunately, at that stage it was only just beginning so I knew that there would be a long wait for the data to arrive. I decided to use that interval to write the book Aware of Aware, which I first published in January 2012. The premise of this book was a hypothesis based on my understanding of the design of the AWARE study (abstract on horizon website) , and that due to various factors, only one or two people would need to have proven OBEs to validate NDEs and all the associated core elements.

Over the intervening years there have been a number of dates floated around as to when the results would be available. Firstly it was some time in 2012, then it got pushed back to the end of 2012, early 2013. Anyone who has followed this with the kind of interest I have, will have raised their hopes when Dr. Sam Parnia, an emergency physician and the lead investigator of the study, published his book Erasing Death ( The Lazarus Effect in the UK). Alas, whilst the book itself was very interesting, there was only a hint at the results which he stated at that stage had not produced any positives with regard to proving the reality of OBEs. He also mentioned that the initial results from the study would be published formally in the Fall of 2013. The months of September and October were initially mentioned, then in an interview in Der Spiegel in July, Dr. Parnia very specifically stated that it would be November.

Well here we are, November 24th, and still nothing from the great Dr. Parnia (and I am not being facetious, as I know that he has stuck his neck out a long way in a field dominated by materialist thinking). Have there been a couple of last minute confirmed OBEs that made it worth delaying the publication? Or has he been so busy in his day job of saving lives that he hasn’t been able to spare the time for writing up? Whatever the reason for the delay, he has 7 more days to fulfill his promise.

I for one am on tenterhooks!

 

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