DID DOCTORS AT NW UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE INDUCE THE NDE, AND IN TURN THE TRANSFORMATION?
Reasearchers from Slovenia published in Critical Care Medicine (April 2010) a nicely done prospective study of near death experiences. They documented that patients who had NDEs, as compared to control patients who did not have NDEs, had higher levels of carbon dioxide in their blood stream. They suggest that elevated carbon dioxide levels might be a cause of the near death experience. They are cautious to acknowledge that this does not invalidate the experience. They are only postulating a mechanism for it. (Click here to read article) Please note they were kind enough to reference my articles, so I, of course, think they are very smart.
My quick and dirty response is that of course patients who have near death experiences are going to have higher CO2 levels in their bloodstream. Those are the patients who are closer to death and in turn more likely to have the experience. The near death experience, is, of course, the dying experience. High CO2 levels would be a correlation, but not the cause of the experience.
However, there is more to this story, so read on for one of the more bizarre tales in medical history. I personally spoke with Dr. Arthur Atkinson, Chairman of the Department of Gastroenterology at Northwestern University School of Medicine, to get this story. (He is now at the NIH)
THE MEDUNE MIXTURE: ONE OF THE STRANGER STORIES IN UNDERSTANDING THE NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
“The brevity of treatment will make this therapy so inexpensive that even poor patients can afford it. It will be a new and satisfactory treatment used widely by General Practionners” -Medune
In the late 1950s, a group of prestigious physicians at Northwestern University School of Medicine did a study unprecendented in medical history. They administered to patients a potentially fatal combination of carbon dioxide gas. They used this to successfully treat a wide variety of psychiatric and even physical illnesses such as peptic ulcers. They were convinced that they would revolutionize psychiatry; patients would be cured of even the most troubling psychiatric disorders with only 2-3 in office treatments with the gas!
The patients received brief treatments, during which time they lost consciousness, had a vivid sense of nearly dying, and even a life review. They received complete pre- and post-treatment evaluations including extensive psychiatric and psychological profiles. Their resultant transformation was carefully compared to a control group of patients who breathed the harmless gas nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
The lead researcher, Laso Medune, as well as Arthur Atkinson, believed that the mixture worked by causing a cessation in brain activity. They documented that the mixture cured anxiety disorders, depression, and even ulcers. They documented many cures from schizophrenia. Over 1000 patients were treated with the mixture with excellent results.
I also spoke with Professor Yacorzynski, also one of the lead researchers. He also reported that the mixture was extremely safe and very effective. He said that the only reason that the treatments were discontinued was because of hostility from the medical establishment that something so simple could actually work.
DID THEY INDUCE THE NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE?
Absolutely. The descriptions given by subjects of the Medune Studies were exactly like those who describe near death experiences. One patient stated: “after the second breath of the mixture, came an onrush of color and design, rushing towards me, engulfing me, and leaving me breathless. I felt separated from my body, my soul being drawn apart from the physical body. I left Earth and reached a communion with (god) causing great relaxation and a sense of security. Throughout the entire experience, I felt the Greater Spirit smiling on me, indulgently, and I pressed close to its warmth and tender strength. I had no need to worry.”
Nor did this patient ever worry about death or anxiety again. She was cured of severe depression and anxiety.
Remember that these studies took place in the 1950s, long before near death experiences became a household name. The researchers did not make an association between their discovery and NDEs.
When I spoke with Arthur Atkinson, he told me with sadness that his father (Arthur Atkinson Sr.) never lived to learn about near death experiences and possible associations between his discoveries and the transformation of the NDE. He had a long and prestigious career, but always felt sadness that his dream that anyone could afford and be transformed by the Medune Mixture did not come to pass.
I asked Dr. Atkinson Jr. if he believed the mixture worked. He laughed and said, “well, we had a close family friend who was a pretty good sailor. But after he was treated with the Medune Mixture, he went on to be a World Class Competitor in sailing and racing. I would say it worked!”.
So, of course patients with high CO2 levels had NDEs in the Critical Care Medicine Study. High levels of CO2 clearly induce the experience and all its benefits. We need to bring back the Medune Mixture.
Melvin L Morse MD