Sam Parnia, M.D., Ph.D., is the U.K.’s leading expert on Near Death Experiences, and a Fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine. He makes a very strong case for the survival of consciousness after death, and he has considerable authority to make that claim. Let me quote him directly from his most recent book, What Happens When We Die (2008):
“So, in essence, there are two sets of data available that when put together become very significant. One suggests that the human mind and consciousness can continue functioning during cardiac arrest and hence during clinical death, while the other states that the human brain itself does not function during this time. This happens because despite the best available medical care, we are still unable to get adequate blood flowing to the brain during cardiac arrest. If both of these sets of data are absolutely correct, then this would suggest that the human mind and consciousness continue to function even when the brain does not work and when we have reached clinical death. This would then imply that many of our assumptions about the relationship between the brain and the mind are not correct.” (178)
Dr. Parnia spends most of the book providing evidence for the above statement. I believe that he succeeds admirably and comes close to convincing me that his central thesis is true: the mind is not an epiphenomenon of the brain. In other words, the brain does not “produce” the mind, any more than the television “produces” the shows we watch. I suppose I was a convert to that belief long before I read this book, but I continue to search for scientists, doctors, and other professionals interested in the survival of consciousness who can provide compelling data on this fundamental issue.
He joins a growing community of medical professionals who are finally “coming out” about their patients’ experiences and how their materialist beliefs have been seriously challenged by those experiences. What I find so compelling about this new genre of medical essay–unfairly relegated to “New Age” sections of the bookstores–is simply that what we experience as patients at the point of death is finally being taken seriously, not simply dismissed as a hallucination or the product of a diseased brain.
So, dear readers, consider reading Dr. Parnia’s book carefully. If you already believe in consciousness after death, it will give you scientific ammunition for the skeptics. If you are a skeptic, it will seriously challenge your beliefs about a materialist universe. And then, of course, write to me and let me know what you think.