For years, I have tried to track down the fabled “case of the patient who truly died and returned to life to tell about it”.  This pursuit has proved more difficult than verifying a Bigfoot sighting.  Every time I read about such a case in a book, or hear about one at a conference, I would immediately attempt to track it down to its source.
Unfortunately, every case that I have attempted to validate has proved elusive.  Invariably it was in the Old Soviet Union, and no records are available, or the patient seems reliable but for legitimate reasons refuses to release their medical records, and so on and so on.
With my old website, I challenged my readers to contribute such cases, and they flooded in, and all fell to pieces on closer examination
Dale Hall is a brilliant Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon, who was instrumental in setting up the prestigious Cardiac Surgery Department at Seattle Children’s Hospital and then went to Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma and did the same.  He is a true Renaissance Man, brilliant surgeon, patron and lover of the Arts, Intellectual, and Humanist.  As a primary care Pediatrician in the Seattle area, many of my patients preferred to drive the extra hour to Tacoma as he was so beloved by them, for their cardiac surgery and follow up.
Every year he throws a party at the Tacoma Art Museum and invites a speaker from various walks of life, such as an Attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues, or myself, who lectured on NDEs.
Dr. Hall told me that he had a case that documented that a patient could be truly dead, and revive and come back to life.  It was a two year old patient he operated on for a cardiac defect.  Unfortunately, the patient had severe post operative complications, and died.  They did their best to resuscitate the patient but finally gave up.  All the doctors and nurses left the room, and a Priest met with the parents at the bedside, and gave the last rites.  Then, over an hour after the patient had been pronounced dead, it suddenly revived.  The child is completely healthy without brain damage, many years later. Although this child was too young to report any spiritual experiences, this case cited by an authority such as Dale Hall proves that it is possible for a person to truly die and come back to life.
No it won’t.  I report it as an experiment to see if suddenly all the skeptics are converted, and to fulfill the challenge that Ian Stevenson gave me so long ago.  I have found that fabled case, Ian, now so what?



Melvin L Morse MD spiritualscientific.com

This is one of the most hotly debated issues in near death research. It is one of the most divisive points among the researchers, so much so that the major researchers have for years been unwilling to issue a unified statement on just what a near death experience is.  Bruce Greyson (The Dean of Near Death Research) sent out a survey many years ago asking the major researchers to define what is near death, and he found enormous differences.  I more recently attempted to write a joint paper with the other major researchers and again, this was a significant divisive issue.

Oddly enough, although I am one of the few researchers who has actually resuscitated my own patients and then asked them what it was like to die, I had not really considered the subject at all until I recently met with Peter Fenwick in Miami in 2008.  I have always used the term “clinical death” to describe the near death state, meaning that without the intervention of modern medicine, the patient will die.  The term “death” itself is enormously controversial, with numerous legal, ethical, and practical meanings and definitions, as we can keep the body alive with virtually complete brain death indefinitely.


Yeah, what about them?  They are not a myth.  I personally spoke with Fred Schoonmaker in 1993 about his research on EEGs at the point of death.  He did over 2000 EEGs on dying patients, in an effort in understand what the EEG tracings were of a dying patient, and if they were helpful in understanding what was true “brain death”.  Many of these patients survived and went to share with him their near death experiences.  He told me that he had over 300 examples of patients with flat EEGs who reported near death experiences.  He published this in Anabiosis in 1979 (the forerunner to the current Journal of Near Death Studies.) However, he was extremely vague about the entire situation, as he was more interested in his work on EEGs in dying patients. He never published his data in the mainstream medical literature, and his article in Anabiosis lacks many of the details neurosciences would love to have.


Yes, in reality, they were truly brain dead.  Most of them had fixed and dilated pupils, lacked protective reflexes such as a gag reflex, and often were starved of oxygen for over 10 minutes.  However, when we published our work in the 1980s and 1990s, our team felt it was far too controversial to make the claim that these patients had truly died and come back to life.  We wanted to publish in mainstream medical journals, so we took the approach that previous authors had taken, that they represent the final few moments of life.  Dr. Fenwick prodded me to reassess our data, and in fact most of the patients were truly brain dead by any criteria.  However, as a statement to the scientific community, it hardly seems right to re-interpret our data long after the initial fact of publication.


If patients can truly have a biologically dead brain, and still retain consciousness and return to life, this would seem to prove without a doubt that consciousness survives the death of the brain.  It further seems to prove that consciousness or the mind does not depend on brain function.  This is why there are so many attempts to document dramatic cases in which patients have been dead for hours and still returned to life.  Fortunately, the issue is now completely moot.  (It no longer matters)  Any reasonable review of the scientific literature clearly documents that consciousness persists in extraordinarily dysfunctional if not completely dead brains.  Frankly I find the fact that there is a consensus of scientific research supporting the idea that we survive bodily death to be far more compelling than dramatic stories.  Science now supports the concept that first came consciousness, and in turn we evolved brains to allow us to experience and learn lessons in this reality essential for our spiritual growth. (This is known as “top down” causation, meaning consciousness comes first.  Bottom up or “upward” causation is the conventional view that first came atoms, then molecules, then groups of molecules, then cells, as so forth until we evolved as human beings.  Upward causation has always had a problem with consciousness, and how it could have evolved in such a way.  Most materialists, or upward causation scientists see consciousness as a by product of brain function, not a primary cause of brain function.

WHY I DON’T THINK IT IS IMPORTANT (And Why I Ignored the Advice of the Great Ian Stevenson)

For over 150 years, consciousness research has been dominated by the search for the “white crow” as William James called it.  By this he meant that if we find a white crow feather, that proves that not all crows are black.  Similarly, if we can find one dramatic case it which the brain is definitely dead and yet the person has a near death experience, then that would seem to prove that consciousness survives independently of a dead brain.  When I was a young man, I served with Ian Stevenson on the Science Board of the legendary National Institute of Discovery Science, led by Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aeronautics.  I asked him what his advice was to me as I was starting in consciousness research.  He stated that I should find and carefully document that one case in which someone had a proven dead brain, had a near death experience, and returned from the experience with information that they could not have obtained in any other way.  I immediately thought to myself, but wait a doggone minute!  Didn’t Meyers, at the turn of the last century do exactly that, documenting two gigantic volumes of such case histories.  And didn’t Ian Stevenson devote his career to exactly that?  And it hasn’t made a bit of difference.  Instead, I feel that we need to create a body of research, numerous small research studies which build on each other, and in turn, create the New Paradigm.


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On the left is the Tacoma Glass Museum featuring the work of Dale Chihuly.  Above is the legendary Robert Hickman, one of my professors and the inventor of the Hickman line. 

It was an amazing honor that Dr. Hickman came to my lecture in Tacoma and I was very proud that he told me he liked it.