Is it really possible to cross the threshold of death and yet return to life? Time and again, the survivors of severe accidents have described exactly this scenario. However, doctors and other are skeptical about reports of near death experiences. Could these be the body’s way of protecting itself from life threatening trauma?
Occasionally, people describe experiences that challenge our notions of what is possible. Consider the following: a man is driving along the highway when he suddenly loses control of the vehicle. There is a powerful impact as he ploughs into a tree or other obstacle. The driver is trapped in the twisted wreckage of his car, unable to move. Gravely injured, his life is ebbing away. Suddenly, he feels a force pulling him upwards. While anxious rescuers struggle to free him, he feels himself rising up into the air, leaving behind the battered shell of his body. His role changes: he is no longer involved, he becomes a spectator. Then everything grows dark, and a tunnel opens up to swallow him. There is a passage, at the end of which he can see an unreal right. He hears sounds and voices that comfort him and make him feel at rest. Then he re enters the tunnel, returning to the scene of the accident and the sound of human voices- the rescuers. And he begins to feel pain.
Such a description is typical of a Near Death Experience (NDE), a phenomenon that defies explanation. A surprising number of people have undergone such experiences, and have described the journey in detail.
The question of whether there is life after death has always interested people, but it has recently undergone a revival, In part, this stems from the development of modern medical resuscitation technologies, which enable emergency personnel to save many more lives than was possible in the past.
People who have narrowly escaped death after an accident have described journeys that have taken them into the beyond. After the publication of Dr. Raymond Moody’s best selling book "Life after life" in 1988, such reports became widely known, and NDE’s have been the subject of intense debate for about 20 years. Some people dismiss the stories as nothing more than tales of the spirit realm. Others suppose that the survivors are influenced by the tabloid press, and that they tell journalists what they think readers would like to read. Would survivors of NDEs describe such experiences if they had not already heard similar reports in the media? There is a third group, those familiar with the scientific background, who interpret NDEs as simple hallucinations; for them, the main question is what triggers these experiences.