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Scientists to Probe Near Death Experiences

By Jeremy Lovell

Sept. 10, 2003

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Scientists probing the paranormal said on Wednesday they hoped to set up a major experiment in Britain trying to find out once and for all whether the mind can step outside the body at the brink of death.

The proposed study would involve interviewing people who had survived cardiac arrest to see if they had had an out of body experience while on the operating table.

"Over the course of a year we hope this would give us 100 people who leave their bodies," neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick told reporters at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

The researchers plan to ask 25 hospitals to place special objects and pictures around their cardiac units.

Each survivor who then claimed to have an out of body experience -- where they typically hover near the ceiling watching the resuscitation process -- would be asked if they had noticed any of the objects.

"If they do notice them when the brain is not functioning then it makes the case for the mind being separate from the brain," he said.

Fenwick, whose special field is near-death experiences, said there was ample anecdotal evidence of out of body experiences, but scant data.

"These people seem to be able to get information when they are out of their bodies. People have talked of 'mind sight,"' he said.

But he accepted that if no one noticed the objects it would equally kill off the theory.

He also said there had been scientific studies proving that prayer worked, including one in which the number of women in a clinic in Seoul who conceived after being implanted with fertilized eggs doubled when groups elsewhere prayed for them.

Robert Morris, Koestler Professor of Parapsychology at the University of Edinburgh, said there was evidence that voice, touch and sight were not the only means of communication.

He said that in experiments, particularly sensitive people had been able to communicate over distance, although he readily accepted that his field was also full of cheats and liars.