Is There Life After
Seattle Doctor Specializes In Near-Death Experiences
Melvin Morse is a pediatrician who used to think that people
who were interested in near-death experiences just wanted
to be on television talk shows.
something happened to one of his patients that changed his
opinion. Now he believes the evidence points to something
scientists will explain that near-death experiences are caused
by the lack of oxygen in the brain in the last moments of
Dr. Morse believes he's found evidence that it is a glimpse
of something beyond our existence.
interviewed a 6-year-old boy," said Dr. Morse. "We
resuscitated him. He opened his eyes and he dramatically said,
'That was weird, two guys just sucked me back into my body.'"
Morse is a respected pediatrician. He was a skeptic about
the issue of life after death until he was confronted with
a story he couldn't explain away.
was what you would call clinically dead," explained Morse.
"She was under water for 19 minutes."
the 7-year-old girl was resuscitated, she started drawing
she described to me was not a hallucination. It was a blow-by-blow
accurate description of her own resuscitation, but from a
bird's eye point of view," said Dr. Morse.
child believed she had to go back to her body to help her
mother with her unborn brother. She drew her unborn brother
with a big red heart. Several months later her brother was
born with heart disease.
can dying, comatose patients perceive anything? That's what
fascinated me," said Dr. Morse. "I knew that something
important about human consciousness was to be learned."
Morse has recorded dozens of interviews with children who
have experienced near death. He says he finds the experiences
with children to be the most pure.
Morse says he doesn't believe in God himself and he has little
interest in the experiences many adults often have reflecting
their own religious beliefs and cultures.
say it is because Christians tend to see Jesus and Indians
see Hindu gods, the near-death experience doesn't seem scientifically
worker Kimberly Clark Sharp says she couldn't come to terms
with her own out of body, near-death experience until one
of her own patients had one.
patient went into cardiac arrest. After she was resuscitated,
the patient insisted she had risen out of her body and floated
up around the hospital where she saw a blue tennis shoe on
the third floor ledge.
calm down her patient Sharp went to look. "I did find
a blue tennis shoe on the ledge," said Sharp. "She
got everything right as she described it to me."
clear even when people are flat lining in the last moments
of life, something profound is happening," said Dr. Morse.
"It is something today's monitors can't pick up."
Morse's findings have been published in medical journals and
he's working to see if something physically changes in the
right temporal lobe of the brain when someone has a post-death
child told me it was a light who told her who she was and
where she was to go," said Dr. Morse. "I want to
interact with that light that tells us who we are and where
we are to go while we're still alive. That to me is a challenge
of the near-death experience."
Morse believes you can get in touch with that part of the
brain through prayer, meditation, even the rhythmic movement
of knitting. There's no absolute proof, but he believes that
people who have that near death experience are stepping into
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a Little Boy Be Proof of Reincarnation?
six decades ago, a 21-year-old Navy fighter pilot on a mission
over the Pacific was shot down by Japanese artillery. His
name might have been forgotten, were it not for 6-year-old
a few people including those who knew the fighter pilot
think James is the pilot, reincarnated.
parents, Andrea and Bruce, a highly educated, modern couple,
say they are "probably the people least likely to have
a scenario like this pop up in their lives."
over time, they have become convinced their little son has
had a former life.
an early age, James would play with nothing else but planes,
his parents say. But when he was 2, they said the planes their
son loved began to give him regular nightmares.
wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told ABCNEWS'
Chris Cuomo. She said when she asked her son what he was dreaming
about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little
man can't get out."
says her mom was the first to suggest James was remembering
a past life.
first, Andrea says she was doubtful. James was only watching
kids' shows, his parents say, and they weren't watching World
War II documentaries or conversing about military history.
as time went by, Andrea began to wonder what to believe. In
one video of James at age 3, he goes over a plane as if he's
doing a preflight check.
time, Andrea said, she bought him a toy plane, and pointed
out what appeared to be a bomb on its underside. She says
James corrected her, and told her it was a drop tank. "I'd
never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't
know what a drop tank was."
James' violent nightmares got worse, occurring three and four
times a week. Andrea's mother suggested she look into the
work of counselor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes
that the dead sometimes can be reborn.
guidance from Bowman, they began to encourage James to share
his memories and immediately, Andrea says, the nightmares
started become less frequent. James was also becoming more
articulate about his apparent past, she said.
said James was at the age when former lives are most easily
recalled. "They haven't had the cultural conditioning,
the layering over the experience in this life so the memories
can percolate up more easily," she said.
time, James' parents say he revealed extraordinary details
about the life of a former fighter pilot mostly at
bedtime, when he was drowsy.
say James told them his plane had been hit by the Japanese
and crashed. Andrea says James told his father he flew a Corsair,
and then told her, "They used to get flat tires all the
fact, historians and pilots agree that the plane's tires took
a lot of punishment on landing. But that's a fact that could
easily be found in books or on television.
says James also told his father the name of the boat he took
off from Natoma and the name of someone he flew
with "Jack Larson."
some research, Bruce discovered both the Natoma and Jack Larson
were real. The Natoma Bay was a small aircraft carrier in
the Pacific. And Larson is living in Arkansas.
was like, holy mackerel," Bruce said. "You could
have poured my brains out of my ears. I just couldn't believe
2 = James M. Huston Jr.?
became obsessed, searching the Internet, combing through military
records and interviewing men who served aboard the Natoma
said James told him he had been shot down at Iwo Jima. James
had also begun signing his crayon drawings "James 3."
Bruce soon learned that the only pilot from the squadron killed
at Iwo Jima was James M. Huston Jr.
says James also told him his plane had sustained a direct
hit on the engine.
Clarbour, a rear gunner on a U.S. airplane that flew off the
Natoma Bay, says his plane was right next to one flown by
James M. Huston Jr. during a raid near Iwo Jima on March 3,
said he saw Huston's plane struck by anti-aircraft fire. "I
would say he was hit head on, right in the middle of the engine,"
says he now believes his son had a past life in which he was
James M. Huston Jr. "He came back because he wasn't finished
Leiningers wrote a letter to Huston's sister, Anne Barron,
about their little boy. And now she believes it as well.
child was so convincing in coming up with all the things that
there is no way on the world he could know," she said.
Professor Paul Kurtz of the State University of New York at
Buffalo, who heads an organization that investigates claims
of the paranormal, says he thinks the parents are "self-deceived."
fascinated by the mysterious and they built up a fairy tale,"
vivid, alleged recollections are starting to fade as he gets
older but among his prized possessions remain two haunting
presents sent to him by Barron: a bust of George Washington
and a model of a Corsair aircraft.
were among the personal effects of James Huston sent home
after the war.
appears to have experienced something that I don't think is
unique, but the way it's been revealed is quite astounding,"
if the idea that James may have been someone else changes
his or his wife's feeling about their son, Bruce said: "It
doesn't change how we think. I don't look at him and say,
'That's not my boy.' That's my boy."
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Validate Near-Death Experiences
a car plowed into the vehicle in which she was riding, Leslie's
chest was crushed, eight bones were broken and her heart stopped
beating for three minutes. Before she was revived, she says
she glimpsed the afterlife.
"My next experience was really lying on the ground outside
of the car, and it was actually an out-of-body experience
that I had," says Leslie, who declined to give her last
name. "I was actually floating above my body, and I looked
down, and I saw all these men working on this poor girl who
was down below, about eight feet below me, and she was struggling."
An estimated 7 million people have reported hauntingly
similar "near-death" experiences. And a new study
in the British medical journal Lancet gives credence to such
accounts, concluding they are valid.
Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson says this study lends more
credibility to the possibility that these near-death accounts
are accurate because the researchers conducted the interviews
soon after the experiences occurred. The study does not provide
a way to scientifically measure whether or not there is life
after death, however.
study reported in Lancet looked at 344 patients in the Netherlands
who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac
arrest in 10 Dutch hospitals.
than using data from people reporting past near-death experiences,
researchers talked to patients within a week after they had
suffered clinical deaths and been resuscitated. (Clincical
death was defined as a period of unconsciousness caused by
insufficient blood supply to the brain.)
18 percent of the patients in the study reported being able
to recall some portion of what happened when they were clinically
dead; and 8 to 12 percent reported going through "near-death"
experiences, such as seeing lights at the end of tunnels,
or being able to speak to dead relatives or friends. Most
had excellent recall of the events, which undermines the theory
that the memories are false, the study said.
don't even begin to have the tools to debate the subject on
a rational scientific basis," Johnson told Good Morning
America. "I don't think our belief on afterlife is defined
on a cause of the brain." Johnson, who serves as assisting
minister of the Community Covenant Church in West Peabody,
Mass., said belief in the afterlife remains primarily a matter
of personal faith.
Down, Consciousness On?
researcher Pim van Lommel of the Hospital Rijnstate in the
Netherlands said the study suggests that researchers investigating
consciousness should not look in the cells and molecules alone.
when the brain is not showing signs of electrical activity,
it is possible that a person can still be conscious, he said.
In other words, people can be conscious of events around them
even when they are physically unconscious.
it with a TV program," he told The Washington Post. "If
you open the TV set you will not find the program. The TV
set is a receiver. When you turn off your TV set, the program
is still there but you can't see it. When you put off your
brain, your consciousness is still there but you can't feel
it in your body."
people describe seeing their own bodies from a distance, as
though watching a movie. Others say they felt their bodies
rushing toward a brilliant light.
who have had this experience say it's a sign there is a tunnel
that leads to eternal life, but researchers do not really
know what the visions mean. The study does not address whether
there is such a thing as the soul, God or the afterlife.
think what's happening is that people are trying to validate
their experience by making these paranormal claims, but you
don't need to do that," said Susan Blackmore, a psychology
professor at the University of the West of England in Bristol.
"They're valid experiences in themselves, only they're
happening in the brain and not in the world out there."
believes the experiences are like a movie that our brains
run at times of extreme traumatic stress. The brain creates
endorphins which can reduce pain, and under extreme stress,
these large amounts of endorphins produce a dreamlike state
of those who described the experiences to ABCNEWS say they
feel they were given the opportunity to explore life beyond
was looking down, and I saw my body, and I saw the doctors,"
said Jessie Lott, one woman who was resuscitated.
had come into this place of brilliant, beautiful life,"
said another, Dannion Brinkley.
feeling of peacefulness, the feeling of utter acceptance,
utter I mean, love, and it sounds so hokey, and I hate
that part of it, because there aren't really good words to
describe it," Leslie said.
woman described how she felt she was being pulled toward a
giant tunnel, a common theme in the near-death experiences.
couldn't stop it. I didn't know why I was moving. I was just
pulled right through this enormous, infinite tunnel,"
said Diane Morrissey.
says science can also explain those tunnels: Electrical brain
scans show that in our last moments, as the brain is deprived
of oxygen, cells fire frantically and at random in the part
of the brain which govern vision.
imagine that you've got lots and lots of cells firing in the
middle, towards fewer at the outside, what's it going to look
like? Bright light in the middle fading off towards dark at
the outside," Blackmore said. "I think that's where
the tunnel comes from. And as the oxygen level drops, so the
bright light becomes bigger and more immediate, and you get
this sensation of rushing forward into the light."
Turned Spiritual Healer
not all scientists are skeptics when it comes to explaining
near-death phenomena, and researchers have debated such issues
Hawkes, a cell biologist with a PhD, had an accident that
forever changed her life and her view of science. She
suffered a concussion from a falling window.
think that part of me that my spirit, my soul
left my body and went to another reality," she said.
She was surprised at the experience.
just was not part of the paradigm in which I lived as a scientist,"
Hawkes recalled. "Iit was a big surprise to me to have
this sense of something different than the body a consciousness
different than the body and to be in this wonderfully
healing, peaceful, nurturing place."
now works as a spiritual healer.
think what I learned was that there truly is no death, that
there is a change in state from a physical form to a spirit
form, and that there's nothing to fear about that passage,"
Dutch researchers found that people who had such experiences
reported marked changes in their personalities compared with
those who had come near death, but had not had those experiences.
They seemed to have lost their fear of death, and became more
compassionate, loving people.
can hardly wait to die, and yet I don't have a death wish.
I live my life a hundred percent more now because I have such
a fine appreciation about what might happen to us and where
we might go," said Morrissey.