Question: Can NDEs be duplicated by Scientists under controlled laboratory conditions?
Answer: Yes and No. As of this writing I know of no studies or experiments that have produced a full-blown Near Death Experience. By that, I mean an experience that contains a discussion between the Experiencer and a "Spirit Being" as to whether or not the Experiencer will continue living their physical life. Usually this consists of a statement from the Spirit Being telling the Experiencer "you must go back and finish your life." Absence of this "life" discussion excludes the experience from being labeled a near death experience, in my opinion. However, it does not exclude it from being a real spiritual event. When Dr. Raymond Moody coined the phrase "near death experience" it was appropriate for his time, but now the phrase is being applied to sports teams and companies when they come close to losing either the game or a lot of money. The phrase no longer serves its intended purpose. Some researchers are now using the phrase "Clinical Death Experience" which more aptly fits the real event.
Near (Clinical) Death Experiences are only a small part of the very large field of spiritual experiences. But a very important part, since they show evidence life continues after death. Other spiritual experiences include Out-of-Body experiences, Pre-Birth experiences, Lucid Dream experiences, Death Bed Visions, Psychic experiences, After Death Communications, Spiritual Healings, experiencing the Oneness of all things, feeling surrounded by the Creator's unconditional Love, and experiencing spiritual justice and morality through insights into life. If one studies spiritual experiences, it soon becomes apparent these experiences all thread into the fabric of the Greater Spiritual Reality that is our real beginnings, our real home.
Keeping in mind that Near (Clinical) Death Experiences happen when the body ceases to function (dies), we can examine scientific claims of duplication. There are three basic types of these claims to duplicate NDEs that I am aware of:
1. The use of mind/body altering drugs.
2. Stressing the body to the point of collapse, as in the Navy Airmen gravity testing by centrifuge.
3. Stimulation of the brain by electical, laser, chemical or other means.
The first method is discussed fully in a previous "frequently asked questions" concerning Ketamine and can be applied to any other drug as well.
The second method invokes stress, disorientation, interference with normal body functions, and even trauma in some cases. Too much stress, or too many G-forces will cause the subject to die clinically and thus have a death experience or some elements of one.
The third method, brain stimulation, begs the question that consciousness is biological and a product of the brain. However, there is no biological proof that memory or consciousness exists in the brain, or, is a product of the brain, see the Brain Thing for further explanation.
So, while some of these "drug and body stress" experiments have produced certain "elements" found in the NDE, and it is understandable that they would. There is no biological argument for science just because they can give drugs, or apply gravitation forces to the body that stop the blood flow to the brain, which then causes a person to experience some "elements" of the NDE. Heart attacks do the same thing. It is just a difference of method, fortunately the centrifuge or drugs can be stopped quickly, a heart attack usually can not. None of these G-Force stresses or drugs have actually duplicated a full-blown NDE.
The only way science could (might) produce a real NDE is to take the subject into clinical death. I saw an account of this on television (A&E). A patient's body temperature was lowered to 60 degrees and the heart stopped so surgery could be done on a brain aneurism. All the blood was drained from the patient's body effectively bringing her body into clinical death. At which point she left her body, looked down upon it, and observed the instruments being used in the operation. When she was revived, more than an hour later, she described the instruments used, and the surgery in detail. The surgeon was amazed, but believed her due to the accurate account she gave. She was certain the experience was real and spiritual. She had the experience independent of her clinically dead body. Her brain showed no activity on the EEG, nor any brain stem activity. She had been clinically dead for almost two hours.
The paragraph below is a quote of the same event from an anonymous writer in the NDE newsgroup. It has more detail than mine, so I thought it would interest readers.
"Such is the case of Pam Reynolds who is quite well known in the NDE community. She was having surgery performed to remove an aneurism from her brain. Her body was cooled to below 60 degrees F. and all of the blood was drained from her brain. Her EEG and brain stem response showed no activity, the definition of brain death in many states. During all of this, she reported rising from her body and seeing the operation performed below her. She also reported contact with "The Light" and many of her deceased relatives. Remember, she had no brain activity whatsoever. Even hallucinations register brain activity. It is interesting that upon recovering she recounted accurately many details of her operation, including conversations heard and a description of the surgical instruments. It has been postulated by a NDE skeptic, that Pam overheard the sounds in the room and generated a "mental map" of things around her. What the skeptic failed to acknowledge though is that instruments were inserted into Pam's ears that generated clicks to measure brain stem response. Her brain stem response throughout the surgery was inactive. If conversations were heard, her brain stem response should have registered them."
So, yes and no: Yes, science could (might) produce a NDE if the conditions (clinical death) for having one were met. But, no, these scientific experiments have not shown NDEs are biological in nature. There is no research showing memory and/or consciousness is biological. Think about it. Memory of all the events in our life would have to be huge. Yet, brain cells are all alike, if biological memory were there it should be easy to see some changes or coloration differences in the memory cells.
According to Pam, she was present, above her body, viewing the whole surgical operation, her consciousness, memory, personality; her whole individuality intact. She proved this with an accurate, detailed description of the instruments, conversation, and procedures used during the surgery. At the same time science, using scientific monitoring instruments, was proving that her body was dead. No brain response, no heart response, no response of any kind. Obviously, the brain nor any other organ of the body was needed to sustain her life, and this account is just one example of the hundreds that exist in the NDE literature.
I believe this is as conclusive as proof gets. Clear, solid proof that man is a spiritual "being" inhabiting a physical body. I hope that in the future, scientists and others concerned with NDEs will consider this preponderance of evidence before telling the general public, or experiencers that NDEs are just biological events. In that manner humankind can benefit from this "knowledge of self" in many ways, and get on with its spiritual growth.
P.S.: Skeptics need to show proof of two things. First, they need to show proof, tangible, physical evidence of consciousness, and memory existing within the physical brain, and that this evidence can be collaborated by their peers. Second, they need to prove how this physical consciousness can remain alive and capable of gathering information of the body's surroundings while the body is in a state of clinical death, showing no brain or heart or respiratory response of any kind, in order to promote their belief that humankind is wholly biological with no future beyond death.
Finally: In the interest of truth, let the skeptics present their biological proof, or forever cease calling Near (Clinical) Death Experiences some sort of biological misfire. I personally don't expect this proof to ever be forthcoming. Ironically, it is science that has proved man will live beyond physical death. Science has finally validated the spiritual nature of man.
Eternally: All people hold within themselves the perfect light of their Creator. Skeptics, believers, and experiencers alike share the common bond of their Creator's Love. There are no cracks to slip through, the program is perfect, individual souls struggling to affirm their identity, to extend the love they feel within while trying to balance the contradictions of physical dualism. Near Death Experiences remind us that we are safe, secure, and eternal in our Creator's Love. We are One.