Email this review


More light at the end of the tunnel--in two senses: Sabom, a cardiologist now at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, has documented additional cases of near-death experience (NDE)--many of which are described in terms of ""ineffable light"" after darkness. Sabom, a scoffer at first, was introduced to Dr. Raymond (Life After Life) Moody's work by a psychiatric social worker, Sarah Kreutziger. Together they planned a detailed study of NDE. They reviewed hospital records to identify patients who had been clinically near death. They then followed up with interviews to determine which of the patients, if any, had had an NDE--characterized, it turns out, by ""autoscopy"" (the self watching the physical body), or a transcendental experience. A high number of patients responded to that effect, and their accounts have a ring of authenticity. (Many were reluctant to talk for fear of ridicule.) What does it all portend?. Sabom's account is replete with tables and statistics that show little or no correlation between having an NDE and variables such as age, sex, race, religious belief, education, etc. He has also examined both paranormal and scientific explanations--dismissing the former, not wholly ruling out the latter. The now-believing doctor prefers, however, to see in the near-death experience a mind-brain split that leaves him awestruck and humble. He quotes some of the latter-day mystical musings of celebrated brain scientists Sir Charles Sherrington and Wilder Penfield to shore up his belief that there is something to a spiritual interpretation after all. For skeptical readers, the repetition of bits and pieces of the same subject's taped narrative in different sections, as well as the stereotypical nature of those narratives, can be both confusing and palling. But the book stands as a useful and well-meant reference in a growing stream of popular works all too often muddied by anecdote and wishful thinking.

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row