The newest edition of the “Journal of Near-Death Studies” landed in my letterbox yesterday. It contained an article by Titus Rivas and Rudolf Smit entitled &ledquo; A Near-Death Experience with Veridical Perception Described by a Famous Heart Surgeon and Confirmed by his Assistant Surgeon.” Both Rivas and Smit are to be commended for their sterling work in trying find detailed information about this truly fascinating case, and making it available to a general public. Their final conclusion and commentary was:
This case appears to belong to those most evidential cases of AVP [authors note: Apparently non-physical Veridical Perception] in which perceptions during an NDE were confirmed as completely accurate by objective observers. We believe that the accumulation of such anecdotal evidence is making it increasingly difficult to dismiss this type of case out of hand. (page 186 in Rivas & Smit 2013)
Nonetheless, this conclusion and subsequent commentary on this case does require some careful comment. So what is the origin of this case?
The origin of this brief report was the fascinating video of an interview with a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Lloyd Rudy, which was uploaded onto the internet at the popular YouTube site on 27 July 2011. This was an interview entitled “Famous Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Near Death Experiences in Surgery” with as subtitle, “Dr. Lloyd Rudy, a pioneer of cardiac surgery, tells stories of two patients who came back to life after being declared dead, and what they told him.” Interested readers can view the video by clicking the link below.
It is curious that neither of the surgeons saw fit to publish this unusual clinical episode in any scientific journal. Furthermore, many details have been lost with the passing of time and the demise of Dr. Rudy. So what are the bare facts of the case as reported by Dr. Rudy, and confirmed by his assistant, Dr. Amado-Cattaneo?
Actually, there are only very few details. The report remains sketchy, even after the best efforts of Rivas and Smit. Nonetheless, some details are clear in the report. I will list the details as reported by Rivas and Smit in their article:
Neither Dr. Rudy nor Dr. Amadeo-Cattaneo could explain how all this experience and spontaneous return of heartbeat after 20-25 minutes without circulation or respiration could occur. Furthermore, they could not explain how he could have “seen” the Post-it notices stuck to the monitor next to the operating table, because his eyes were taped shut during the operation. Nonetheless, there are explanations based upon medical science, and I will detail these below. But what are my reasons for publishing on the internet instead of in the “Journal of Near-Death Experiences”?
Reasons for publishing this examination of this article here are the long turnaround time of the “Journal of Near-Death Experiences”, (sometimes up to two years), as well as the limited readership of this journal. This report deals with a rare experience whose nature is readily subject to misinterpretation.
The fact these surgeons, as well as Titus Rivas and Rudolf Smit did not understand, or could not explain how this experience could have occurred means very little. It simply means they could not explain this experience — it does not mean other experts or physicians cannot explain this experience. So their inabilitity to explain this experience does not automatically mean it has a spiritual or paranormal explanation. This fact was first expressed by the nineteenth century evangelist Henry Drummond in the well known “God of the Gaps” statement, and most recently in a similar and equally pithy statement written by a journalist, Gard Simons, in a national Dutch newspaper called “De Volkskrant”.
I know people who do not understand how an internal combustion motor works, but that does not mean their cars are powered by magic. (by Gard Simons in De Volkskrant, 23 December 2013)
However, this experience is readily explicable with known, albeit rare, medical phenomena.
There is an unusual medical event called the “The Lazarus Phenomenon”. The “The Lazarus Phenomenon” is a situation where a person spontaneously recovers heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing, and consciousness after periods of absent heartbeat lasting sometimes as long as 26 minutes (Quick 1994). This phenomenon was known and reported during 1994 (Quick 1994)—a period dating before this man was operated and spontaneously recovered heartbeat after 20 minutes of absent heartbeat. Subsequent reviews of this phenomenon covering more than 38 such patients in 1998 (Adhiyaman 1998), and during 2007 (Malek 2007), also seem to have escaped the attention of those involved with describing and reporting this case.
There are multiple explanations for the surprising neurologically intact survival of several of these persons. In some situations, the reason for spontaneous return of circulation is unknown due to lack of details, but that does not mean a paranormal cause. So this fascinating report by Lloyd Rudy is one of the rare, but known cases of the “The Lazarus Phenomenon.” But what of the near-death experience (NDE), and the out-of-body experience (OBE) reported by this man?
This man was only able to report his experiences and observations after recovering evident consciousness and the ability to speak. Accordingly, his experiences and the observations made during his period in the operating theater were remembered experiences and observations. The fact these experiences and observations were recalled memories immediately renders them explicable. I shall reference the explanations to the extensive proofs in the book Illusory Souls. One of the main reasons for such self-referencing is twofold: such explanations do not exist in other books, and the list of references to scientific human research supporting each of these explanations in the book Illusory Soulsis so extensive that it would render this web-page an unwieldy literature mass. So I will begin:
The inevitable conclusions is that this man and his doctors reported a rare occurrence of the “Lazarus Phenomenon” together with an NDE / OBE with veridical observations. Careful examination of known medical knowledge and physiology explains all aspects of this story—changing a seeming wonder encapsulated in a brief and threadbare report, into a rare, but explicable experience and observation.