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Do Near-Death Experiences Happen?

by Ron Kurtus (updated 22 December 2022)

Some people who have been close to death have had what are called near-death experiences (NDE) and have been interpreted as approaching "the other side" or getting a glimpse of heaven. These experiences include a sense of well-being, out-of-body experiences of looking at themselves as if from a distance, bright lights in a tunnel, and seeing deceased relatives.

Some scientists believe these experiences are aberrations of the brain under trauma.

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Background of NDE

Many people who have been in serious accidents, who have been operated on in a hospital and start to slip away or who have been in some other situation where they are considered "dead" for a short period of time later relate similar experiences while they are almost dead. These are called near-death experiences or NDE. Some also have what are called out-of-body experiences.

A large number recall feeling mellow, relaxed, and even happy. They remember seeing a bright white light beckoning them. Some people say that they recall floating out of their body and even watching doctors work on them in the operating room.

Numerous similar cases

Over the years, there have been a fairly large number of similarly documented cases of near-death experience, it would appear that this phenomenon is real. Still, the question is whether or not such an experience is proof of some sort of life after death.

Convincing experience

Those who have had a near-death experience are so struck by what they have seen and felt that in many cases it has completely changed their lives. They are convinced that they have really seen a glimpse of what life after death is about, and they are firm believers of the validity of their experience.

Glimpse of Heaven

Many NDE people become more religious, since they have seen a "glimpse of Heaven" and now believe more strongly in God and life-after-death.

Argument against NDE

On the other side of the argument is the fact that scientists and doctors have been able to duplicate many of these experiences through the use of drugs or electronic stimulation of the brain.

They claim that these near-death experiences are simply physical phenomena that may occur in the body when it is under trauma, lack of oxygen, or such.

Since they are able to duplicate the NDE effects to a degree, they certainly have a valid argument.

Weighing evidence

Certainly NDE happens and the results are similar in among those that have had the experience. On the other hand, scientists have a strong case that it is just a physical phenomenon.

Book writers may exaggerate

One problem area on getting to the truth is the fact that a number of people who have experienced these effects have gone on an written books about their experiences.

Unfortunately, writing a book often results in embellishing on the facts to make it sound more interesting. It also causes other people to jump on the bandwagon with similar stories, just to become the center of attraction.

For example. the 1990 movie "Flatliners" with Keifer Sutherland and Julia Roberts was about medical students who experimented with the NDE by forcing the death of their fellow student and then bringing him back to life. The student would then relate the amazing experiences from "the other side."

Drawing conclusions

I certainly believe (and hope) that there is some sort of life after the death of our physical body. The universe is just too complex to simply happen without some divine plan.

On the other hand, since these effects have been duplicated, I would tend to think that maybe what these people experience really isn't what they think. The fact that they see deceased relatives bother me. My belief is that if there is a religious hereafter, we aren't going to be tied to the small number of friends and relatives we knew during our lifetime.

It certainly is a fascinating subject, but I guess we'll never know until after our time is up.


A number of people have had similar near-death experiences. Scientists have been able to duplicate many of these experiences through drugs or electronic stimulation and thus claim they are simply physical phenomena. The subject is interesting, but you have to take both arguments with a grain of salt.

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