Man dead for 45 minutes says he awoke after seeing afterlife

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Brian Miller was declared dead after suffering a massive heart attack at a Ohio hospital.

Then to the surprise of nurses and doctors, after 45 minutes, his heart randomly started beating again.

Miller, 41, told WJW-TV that while he was out, he saw a light and relatives who had passed away.

Miller said he remembers walking along a “heavenly” path lined with flowers.  He was then stopped by his mother-in-law, who had just passed away.

“She grabbed a hold of my arm and she told me that, ‘It’s not your time.'”

Miller said he met another relative before waking up.

Despite that for 45 minutes his brain did not receive any oxygen, doctors said Miller did not suffer any brain damage.

“There is an afterlife and people need to believe in it,” he said.

Researchers find near-death experiences are often similar

Miller’s experience is familiar to researchers who study near-death experiences or NDEs.

Belgen Dr. Steven Laureys studies near-death experiences.  He leads the  Coma Science Group at the university hospital in the city of Liege. He and his colleagues published a scientific study on NDEs late last May.

Laureys says people who experience NDEs are often forever changed. They report no longer fearing death and say the experience becomes the cornerstone of their life.

His hypothesis is that near-death experiences originate in human physiology. “It is this dysfunctional brain that produces these phenomena,” he said.

Laureys and his staff are interested in how the brain creates the mind and its perception of reality. “Our main focus is consciousness research in comatose patients,” he said.

Researching NEDs is complicated

Scientific research on people having NDEs is tough, because the exact instant that they occur is unknown, making them nearly impossible to observe, Laureys said.

It would also be cruel to run brain scans on someone who was possibly facing the moment of death.

So, Laureys and his team studied the near-death memories of people who survived — in particular those of coma patients — with the help of a psychological examination.

The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire tests for sensory and emotional details of recollections and how people relive them in space and time. In other words, it gauges how present, intense and real a memory is.

They compared NDEs with other memories of intense real-life events like marriages and births, but also with memories of dreams and thoughts — things that did not occur in physical reality.

The researchers paralleled new memories with old ones. And they compared the patients who had NDEs with groups of others who didn’t.

Memories of important real-life events are more intense than those of dreams or thoughts, Laureys said.

“If you use this questionnaire … if the memory is real, it’s richer, and if the memory is recent, it’s richer,” he said.

The coma scientists weren’t expecting what the tests revealed.

“To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors,” Laureys reported.

Results of a psychological test reveal memories of Near Death Experiences to be more vivid than any other memory

Results of a psychological test reveal memories of Near Death Experiences to be more vivid than any other memory. (Photo: Dr. Steven Laureys)

The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. “The difference was so vast,” he said with a sense of astonishment.

Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich “as though it was yesterday,” Laureys said.

“Sometimes, it is hard for them (the patients) to find words to explain it.”

True believers

The questionnaire asks people about their level of certainty that a remembered experience was a real event and not imagined or dreamed. “They (the patients) are very convinced that it is real,” Laureys said.

A simple Internet search reveals hundreds of accounts of near-death experiences — some real, some perhaps invented. Many people are convinced they are proof positive that an afterlife exists outside of the physical realm — and that it is wondrous.

There are reports of religious images appearing at times in NDEs, but they are not limited to one single religion, and they don’t always appear. Sometimes Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed appear, but usually they don’t, Laureys said.

Nevertheless, an NDE can make a convert of a skeptic. Dr. Eben Alexander is a well-known case of an agnostic scientist who became convinced of the existence of the spiritual.

He has often shared his story in television interviews with journalists and expressed his views in lectures and in books and video presentations, which he sells on his website.

Alexander, a neurosurgeon, according to his autobiography, has described his experience in the same terms as the Belgian researchers: “hyper-reality,” “too real to be real.”

In the beginning, he tried to interpret his experience as a brain function, he wrote on his website, but he became increasingly spiritual. He has come to the conclusion that people are reincarnated.

Alexander says his experience could not have been a hallucination, because the parts of the brain necessary to produce his experiences were basically dead when he had them.

Scans compare neurological activity in a brain that is healthy, one that is comatose and another that is dead

Scans compare neurological activity in a brain that is healthy, one that is comatose and another that is dead. (Photo: Dr. Steven Laureys)

It’s your brain, Laureys tells you

Laureys strongly disagrees. “There is no evidence there can be conscious experience without brain activity,” he said.

Lying in your hospital bed, you have become a true believer, and you are happier for it.

But your brain never died, the doctor tells you. You were in a coma. Perhaps your heart stopped for a while; maybe it didn’t. But that’s not even necessary to have an out-of-body experience.

“Many individuals having had NDEs were not physically in danger of death suggesting that the perception, on its own, of the risk of death seems to be important in eliciting NDEs,” the study said.

It’s enough just to think you’re dying to have one.

The American Psychological Association concurs. It defines near-death experiences as “profound psychological events with transcendental and mystical elements, typically occurring to individuals close to death or in situations of intense physical or emotional danger.”

In the case of coma patients, the brain producing the NDE may be functioning minimally, but it is still alive, Laureys hypothesized. He said one can stimulate certain parts of the brain to produce single elements of the experience.

It’s a vivid hallucination, Laureys’ report surmises. “It was a normal brain activity that produced their extraordinary perceptions.”

Though the results of his studies were marked and consistent, the Belgian research team has tested only a small number of patients so far.

And it has not been able to scan brain images of patients having NDEs to get hard data on the hypothesis of the physiological nature of the experience.

Laureys’ research alone is not enough. He wants to see more scientists get involved. As a doctor, he feels it’s the compassionate thing for them to do.

Too many people have the experience for serious researchers to ignore it, he said, and a lot of people are afraid that their consciousness will linger long after they pass away, making them witnesses to whatever happens to their bodies.

“The public is historically afraid to be buried alive,” Laureys said. “People are afraid to sign up as organ donors.” They are scared they may have to watch them being extracted from their bodies.

There are more than enough spiritual models for NDEs, he said — and superstitious ones. “There are a lot of crazy explanations out there.”

It’s high time for more hard science, Laureys said. A high percentage of his coma patients report having had NDEs, and he believes many of us go through these “afterlife” experiences when we die.

Laureys doesn’t want to speculate on the existence of heaven or hell, but he does say that only a small minority of near-death experiences are horrifying. Most of them are pleasant and uplifting.

From his accounts, it sounds like more people go to “heaven” than to “hell.”

CNN contributed to this story.

33 comments

    • cora L

      I am a NDE survivor so it is easy for me to say this world is one form of reality but their is a super reality that makes this world feel like a dream. The hospital doctor said I should of been dead but I think I was temporarily dead. During my NDE, I was surrounded by a light that made me feel pure love and joy. There was decisions, a life review, etc. The voice told me the purpose of life is to love. I still have dejavu from that life review because it showed me my past and future. I was lucky enough to return to this world and experience life. When my late grandfather had surgery years ago, he floated outside of his body when the doctors lost him during heart surgery. He was able to explain details of what was going on outside of his body and around the area. NDE survivors claim to be more in tune with their psychic abilities after an NDE experience. I experience more psychic phenomena then I used too. Quite often, I receive a confirmation from a second person when these events happen. They can be someone I know or a complete stranger. I feel like a changed person after my NDE and I can’t imagine my experience was just my brain chemicals telling me to pretend I have a happy death. That sounds like an easy excuse but the event was so vivid.

      • Robert Gift

        ^ Our brains are magnificent. They can invent and imagine amazing things with incredible acuity.
        Just because pulse and respirations cease does not mean one has biologically died.

  • Ian Wardell

    There’s this implicit assumption continually made by skeptics that one should not be able to experience the afterlife if one is not near death. But why on earth not?? And all the evidence suggests we can!

    Article says:
    “Laureys strongly disagrees. “There is no evidence there can be conscious experience without brain activity,” he said”.

    So all the evidence that there is “conscious experience without brain activity” is dismissed because there is no “evidence that there is “conscious experience without brain activity”.

    The only evidence of consciousness that is acceptable is when it operates through the body. So it follows *by definition* that all the other evidence is not evidence. But in that case his statement is entirely vacuous and signifies absolutely nothing whatsoever.

      • Ian Wardell

        I’m not sure if you misunderstand me but I think it’s most probable we do survive. There are problems with NDEs, but overall I think they make the survival hypothesis somewhat more likely than if no-one had ever experienced either a NDE or deathbed vision.

        And the evidence for reincarnation is extremely compelling indeed (the young children apparently recalling previous lives, not hypnotic regression).

      • Linda Wells

        I have never experienced a Near death Experience, however, the moment my mother died…her energy had come to visit me 100 miles away. Her death was unexpected, and I knew it was her because of the energy that came to me at the time of her death. If people believe this is the all..the end all….then I feel sad for you…I believe there other planes of existence or life levels beyond this one and we are certainly on a path of learning..spiritual learning… and we must conquer our fears and move toward spiritual enlightenment to prepare ourselves for the next level.

  • Ian Wardell

    Article says:
    “He said one can stimulate certain parts of the brain to produce single elements of the experience.

    It’s a vivid hallucination, Laureys’ report surmises. “It was a normal brain activity that produced their extraordinary perceptions.””

    This argument assumes brain activity produces consciousness and is transparently question begging!

    Those who subscribe to survival often entertain the view that disembodied consciousness is vastly greater in scope than our everyday consciousness. But in the embodied state the brain acts as a reducing valve or “filter” which severely curtails the range of consciousness. Arguably this would serve the useful purpose of filtering out the perception of other realities and other conscious states which are not necessary, or which hinder our ability to function in this physical reality. This hypothesis would broadly be consistent with phenomena such as the occasional reports of people recovering their mental faculties near death, near-death experiences and other mystical experiences, and also accounts such as those found in the “Tibetan Book of the Dead.

  • Robert Gift

    “There is no evidence there can be conscious experience without brain activity,”
    My college professor said I disproved that daily.

    Zero heart output and no pulmonary function does not mean one is dead.
    In an anoxic state, one may “dream”.

    The IMPORTANT QUESTION:
    Did anyone get him the next winning Lotto numbers?

  • Morgaine Swann

    This article shows no awareness of the work of Dr. Pim van Lommel. He has worked with NDEs for years and they have documented that people do remember things that happen when brain activity has ceased. Consciousness is non-local to the brain. It survives.

  • Robert Gift

    ^ According to my college professors, my brain activity frequently ceases. Yet, I remember!

    Just because brain activity appears to have ceased does not mean that it has. We can measure down to only a certain sensitivity before ambient interference masks signals.

  • Lance L. Landon

    If we can consider that we may be a spiritual being, then the soul does know a great deal more about what is currently going on and is somehow connected to our conscious living brain [even if it did die temporarily]. Because we now know of Quantum Mechanics concepts such as ESP and Remote Viewing as well as out-of-body experiences seem more plausible, at least to me.

  • reformedii

    Gee how simple this is. Supernatural may instead be called “SUPERMATERIAL.”

    The most recent physics [OK I read the science.com article last year] NOW believes we live in a universe of from 7-11 dimensions. Scripture has been telling us abut those dimensions for several thousand years.

    The multiple dimensions of the universe are the explanation for angels [fallen and otherwise] Jesus, God, ETC.!!!

    The FOUR dimensions you and I live in are the LOWEST forms [structure???] of intelligence.

    I believe the “SPIRIT” is the next dimension and The “SOUL” is even further! That would give us 6 dimensions right there.

    Jesus was said, by what atheists call ignorant men, to be able to go through walls, disappear from crowds, ETC. The “demoniac” with the “Legion” of demons is another example of the “spirit” world impinging on OUR dimensions! 1000 Demons [SPIRIT dimension] can occupy the same 4 dimensions at the same time!!!

    The Biblical story of the prophet surrounded by the army of angels which his “helper” could not see UNTIL his “spiritual” eyes were opened is another example

    Real ignorance is displayed by the FOOLS of this world, the atheists who are truly ignorant and illiterate and BLIND!

    When the NDE’s die physically [to OUR 4 dimensions] they somehow come into KNOWING contact with the next dimensions of “SPIRIT.”

    So much of the Bible is FILLED with the multiple dimension examples!

      • reformedii

        I suppose I shouldn’t laugh at your illiterate [look it up] juvenile post, but it is hard sometimes to be patient since I used to be a functional atheist and anti Christian for about 1/3 of my 65 years.

        NOW, it’s funny how much the atheist has to deny and just absolutely be blind to. Reminds me of the government’s actions back in the 1950’s when confronted with thousands of reports of UFO’s. NO they aren’t occupied by little green men! They said they had studied 10000 reports and all but 3% could be explained by “natural” events.

        The atheist has to deny literally hundreds of thousands of events as “hallucination,” mass hypnosis, psycho behavior, lies, “MYTHS” and EVERYTHING but what they are! The only ones deceived are those who DENY.

        I tried to disprove the Bible to a future wife. When I started studying the history, archaeology, linguistics, what you call myth, and SCIENCE, I totally changed course. For an honest, intelligent, person who is capable of putting it all together which is called building a CONSTRUCT [look it up] of the universe.

        You have to say that every ancient civilization just “imagined” the gods [SMALL g] of antiquity. The flood story, is almost universal among ancient cultures, BUT you say they just made it up. Creation stories abound BUT they just made them up.

        The gods of antiquity [thor, astarte, shiva, zeus, ETC.] were the fallen angels.

        Physics is catching up to the Bible. They now believe we live in a universe of several dimensions. The total explanation for most “supernatural” events is the fact that we humans are only on the bottom rung of living intelligence. BUT YOU think you are IT! Not only that, but every atheist has to [if they are the ONLY controllers of the universe] believe they are not only God but smarter than God.

        Arrogance [juvenile thinking] says that everything else does not exist, unless you can see it yourself!

        You need to grow up! Instead of being a selfish, ignorant juvenile, if I were you I would start by studying former atheists like Lee Stroebel & Josh McDowell. And get a MODERN study Bible like the NET [with 60000 notes] or the Archaeological Study Bible [2000 pages with about 20% filled with notes confirming Scripture] and BAR.

      • Robert Gift

        Thank you for your lengthy effort.

        Atheism is as laughably absurd as the myths of Christian-inanity, HIslam, MORmONism and all the others.
        You cannot correctly claim “there is no God”.

        No desire to waste life studying myth.
        Or is the long, boring Bible and all of its related nonsense “required reading”?

        But God, I be illiterate!

        What? God cruely killed countless innocent children, women and men and cruely killed countless animals by drowning?
        Bad God, bad God.

        “Agnostic” (look it up)

  • Royal Kuenzi

    There is evidence of NDE’s ie consciousness with zero brain activity. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pam_Reynolds_case. This was during a very closely monitored surgery and is a very well known case.

    For a researcher on this topic, Luareys is sadly under informed. Is it not just like a scientific mind to say ‘none exists’ when they don’t know any exists? The rest of would say “I don’t know of any case.”

  • Greg Clark

    anyone ever heard of 4th dimensional living in a 3rd dimensional world, forget about what these college professors say some of them are full of it as in full of themselves and thats about it

  • Tom Sanders

    You have this Dr. Steven Laurey’s making a opinion and then stating it like it’s a fact…he says it’s the human physiology of the dysfunctional brain causing these things…..like he knows all about life and death….like his holier than thou knows exactly what happens after death….like every story ever printed of people who say there is a afterlife somehow they are all wrong and he’s right….like the fact because they see some of the same things that’s proof itself that’s it’s just their brain….these are the left wing jacka$$es that think they know it all and your corrupt FOX 31 NEWS just printing their opinion.

  • debbie bechard

    I took a nap in the middle of the afternoon on a warm summer day. Had this experience. That was almost 40 years ago and I still can remember vividly every detail. I know the difference between a dream and this. And that was before I even heard mention of NDE,s. The light I saw , there is no comparison on earth, and it surrounded me. I could actually feel it, a love and peacefulness beyond description. Then the light spoke ( like mental telepathy) and I knew who it was . Call him what you will. Though I was desperate to stay, I had a choice to come back, which I took because of my sons. I was not all that religious , but I believed something existed. I became all knowing, which is to say I saw what is and will be, Everyone and everything is connected. Everything you see, and don’t see is connected. From the tiniest of particles to the vastness of space and beyond, we are ALL connected .This I what I saw Our existence has been mapped out, planned, or preordained, if you will . Why, I don’t . But I do know there is someone or something greater than anyone or anything.

  • Linda Thomas

    This is the age old dilemma. Is my perception reality? or is reality something I percieve? Half of this world will determine that the first is true, and half of the world will believe the latter. Who is right in the end? One of us? Both of us? Or neither of us… There was a time when we “believed” the earth was flat. And it was based on “science”. We are always evolving, learning, growing. The only thing we can truly be sure of, is that we don’t know everything. So let’s stop trying to convince people who believe one way, that they are wrong. Because those who were sure the earth was flat, were wrong.

  • Christa Lynn Frolund Schoenherr

    I have enjoyed reading all these posts and consider myself lucky to be a psychic and a medium. I have seen and experienced many things that cannot be explained. I will KNOW things that I have no way of knowing and have experienced thoughts that I have recognized as NOT being my own thoughts. We are definitely all connected and hurting someone only hurts ourselves.. I have received messages from deceased loved ones and angels (yes, they really do exist!). I have already seen and experienced enough ‘proof’ in my lifetime and like NDE’s, no longer fear death, but look forward to it when it is my time. Try to keep your minds open. It is not right or wrong to believe or not believe. Each of us will have our own life experience as it was meant to be. When our time comes and we do pass, then we will know for sure.

  • Pamela Turner

    Your brain activity is the result of the physical body interpreting the physical world. It is not consciousness itself. Consciousness obviously exists independent of the physical body whether the physical body is living or dead.

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