General practitioner François Lallier, PhD from the University Hospital of Reims in France, conducted a retrospective study of near-death experiences for his dissertation in general medicine, the results of which he discusses in his book Le mystère des expériences de mort iminente.
French publication Medscape interviewed him to find out why the doctor, who is neither a priest nor a mystic, made this unconventional – some would say “daring” – choice.
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When asked by journalists about where Francois Lallier got the idea to write a dissertation on near-death experiences, the doctor replied that one evening in 2012, when he was in his seventh year of medical school, he was watching TV and came across a documentary about near-death experiences.
“I have already heard a little about them, about the tunnel, about the light and so on. But when I watched the program, I was struck by similar elements, similarities in people’s stories. And the fact that there were so many scientists investigating this experience also intrigued me. I said to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a dissertation in general medicine about near-death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors?” – shared the interlocutor of the publication.
As a result, the doctor of sciences conducted a retrospective study that lasted a year and a half. During all this time, he reviewed about 300 cases of cardiac arrest patients who were successfully treated at the Reims University Hospital between 2005 and 2012. As a result, a group of people was selected with whom the doctor wanted to talk.
“But from a medical point of view, what is particularly interesting in these specific cases is that cardiac arrest stops blood flow to the brain. Thus, these patients should not be able to form or even have any memories of it,” the expert explained.
Of the approximately 300 patients, the doctor was able to talk to 118. The group consisted mostly of men (69%), with an average age of 54 years. The median time since their cardiac arrest was 55 months. The doctor asked these people to answer questions on the Grayson NDE scale.
In addition, he collected information about their level of education and their possible near-death experience or their knowledge of the subject. In the end, the researcher stumbled upon something that had never been taken into account: the patient’s medical and surgical history.
Perhaps, he noted, an explanation could be found in their state of health before the near-death experience. So Lallier went through the files and noted each patient’s medical and surgical history, the medications they were taking, the cause and duration of the cardiac arrest, the methods used to resuscitate them, the medications used during resuscitation.
As a result, of the 118 people the doctor spoke to, 18 may have had a near-death experience. This is 15.3%, which is consistent with the figures found in the literature. The specialist proceeded from the premises that if it were a hallucination, then most likely one could find a psychiatric basis for this in the person’s medical history, and that if it was associated with an epileptic seizure, then this type of experience would be more often observed in people suffering from this neurological disorder.
However, the results showed just the opposite. In other words, people with a history of psychiatric or neurological problems actually had fewer near-death experiences than those who didn’t. Meanwhile, there were more cases of near death among people with a history of respiratory, endocrine and rheumatic diseases. And, in general, patients who took medication were less likely to have a near-death experience.
One of the theories that Lallier put forward in his dissertation is that everyone who experiences cardiac arrest has a near-death experience, but not everyone remembers it.
It can be said that when it comes to the brain, the more “damaged” it is due to neurological or psychiatric disorders, treatments, or memory-impairing conditions, the fewer reports of near-death experiences. This is consistent with the findings that 60% of children experience similar experiences compared to 15-20% of adults.
When asked that NDEs are often explained by the release of neurotransmitters, Lallier replied that these arguments are based on experiences caused by psychedelics. Yes, the researcher said, they cause sensations and visions similar to those described by patients who have experienced a near-death experience – a feeling of unconditional love, a vision of beings of light. But it’s still just a theory, the Ph.D. assured.
“And even if it turns out that DMT occurs naturally in the human body, this will not ‘explain’ everything. For example, how is it that near-death experiences can occur in circumstances where a person is not “close to death”, for example, in a state of pure relaxation or when a person feels completely one with another,” said the doctor.
Thus, concluded François Lallier, if there is an event in the patient’s history that could lead to a near-death experience, the doctor should start this discussion and conduct this conversation without any skepticism or criticism. And who knows? They may even be surprised by what they hear. They may even come up with their own theories about the phenomenon.