In the decade since my near-death experience (NDE) during a week-long coma in November 2008, I have been through many ups and downs in sharing my experience with the world. The low point involved a published account of false and misleading statements. The details of my medical condition were called into question as perhaps not as severe as I’d maintained in my first book, Proof of Heaven. I was challenged personally with implications that I lied about such specifics for financial gain.
Counteracting such claims, this month represents a resounding “up” in that journey: Dr. Bruce Greyson, one of the top globally-acknowledged scientific researchers in the field of consciousness studies, has teamed up with physician colleagues Surbhi Khanna and Lauren E. Moore to provide a detailed and comprehensive review of my medical records. This independent physician case report has been published this month in the widely respected peer-reviewed Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease:
The publication of this case report marks tremendous progress in elucidating the unprecedented effect of my NDE (and numerous similar journeys) on our human understanding of the nature of reality. Many in the medical community were astounded I recovered at all due to the severity of my illness – “an extremely severe bacterial meningitis with little likelihood of a complete medical recovery,” as summarized in the case report (S. Khanna et alia, p. 744). They shared my disbelief that the events I described in Proof of Heaven could have happened at all, since there was overwhelming evidence of destruction to my brain, and yet they DID happen:
“Based on details of events that he accurately described having observed during his coma, his near-death experience can be placed between hospital days 1 and 5. On those 5 days, his GCS [Glasgow Coma Scale] scores, charted twice a day, ranged between 6 and 7, indicating severe brain impairment.” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 744)
A GCS score of 9 or less indicates deep coma, with 3 being the lowest possible score (a corpse), and 15 the GCS in a normal awake patient.
Based on these scores, I should have had no experience at all, other than the most rudimentary forms of conscious awareness. My neurologic examinations, the CT and MRI scans showing all eight lobes of my brain to have been involved, and lab values all indicated a very severe infection.
Both neurologists involved in my case were similarly surprised by the outcome, given the severity of my illness. One of my main infectious disease specialists, Dr. Scott Wade, in a private communication with my family written six weeks after I awakened, stated that my “recovery from a serious meningitis [was] the most incredible and gratifying experience” of his medical career, which had spanned more than two decades after fellowship training.
“Most reported cases [of Gram-negative bacterial meningitis] have residual neurological deficits; however, this patient attained full neurological recovery within 2 months, which is remarkable and rare.” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 745)
The current case report goes much deeper than the details provided in Proof of Heaven in exploring the extraordinary nature of my illness, and the equally surprising facets of my complete recovery over two months. The fact that I could have experienced anything while my brain was so besieged with infection, particularly targeting the neocortex, remains a profound challenge to our conventional materialistic worldview, and especially the assumption that the physical brain creates consciousness.
“It is noteworthy that the patient’s near-death experience can be placed between hospital days 1 and 5, when his GCS scores were lowest. This association of a mystical state of consciousness with diminished brain function is consistent with recent neuroimaging studies of psychedelic drug-induced states showing that brain connectivity in the default mode network is inhibited rather than excited by psilocybin (Carhart-Harris et al., 2012), ayahuasca (Palhano-Fontes et al., 2015), and LSD (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016).” (S. Khanna et alia, p. 746)
The implication, that consciousness can exist independently of the brain, so absolutely defies the principles of conventional (pre-quantum) science and its assumption that only the physical world exists, that some seem to be thrown into an existential crisis by my case and the profound implications it engenders. The discussion of the reality or meaning of NDEs in our society is one that greatly stirs people’s feelings about their most fundamental beliefs, and thus ignites extreme passions in their responses.
The case report actually goes beyond simply remarking on the astonishing nature of my course since coma, to suggest that the spiritual content of my NDE might have contributed to my inexplicable recovery.
“Of interest, other near-death experiences occurring under well-documented medical supervision have been associated with unexpected recovery from conditions thought to be irreversible (Alexander, 2017; Dossey, 2011), suggesting possible benefits from research into possible mechanisms by which near-death experiences might facilitate healing.” (S. Khanna et alia, pp. 745-746)
Dr. Larry Dossey and I have both written about miraculous healing associated with NDEs in the medical literature. All of us might gain useful lessons about the role of mind-over-matter in healing. This is the ultimate treasure trove resulting from the deeper understanding of NDEs and other spiritually-transformative experiences.
This case report destroys the false conclusion perpetrated by those who tried to discredit my story, my integrity and trustworthiness with false statements about my career as a neurosurgeon. My recent FAQ entitled “Have you been found guilty of malpractice?” summarizes how twisted facts completely obscured my true actions in that case.
I am proud of a neurosurgical career in which I operated on over 4,000 patients, and contributed to advancement of the field, especially in specific technologies such as stereotactic radiosurgery, intraoperative MRI, and focused ultrasound surgery (publications). I have nothing to hide about my medical career, which is one of the reasons I proceeded to share my story in Proof of Heaven. Malpractice data is freely available to the public. I never suspected that anyone would take the original allegations from a malpractice case, which can be wildly inaccurate, and present them as final facts in the matter. The offending article totally ignored the full investigations by state medical boards and the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and their conclusions that allowed me to return to medical practice with my licenses and board certification fully intact.
Living in a Mindful Universe, the book I co-authored with Karen Newell, argues further that the reductive materialism of conventional science is a dead end. The stunning reality of ontological idealism (the mental universe now coming into focus for quantum physicists), is presented most forcefully. Ultimately, we are all part of the greater consciousness, the primordial mind, that determines the emerging events of our lives.
In coming months, Karen and I will be appearing at several conferences and presentation venues in North America and Europe, including meditation playshops to help true seekers get deeply involved in exploring consciousness and manifesting the free will of their higher souls. We hope to see you at one of these events!