It seemed this particular topic had been chasing me lately from classroom to emergency room, so I decided to investigate. I asked my "smart phone" for a little assistance and found out she was talking about a Harvard professor named Eban Alexander who reports experiencing heaven during a 7 day coma resulting from bacterial meningitis--Dr. Alexander who taught at Harvard medical school and now commutes to the University of Virginia from Lynchburg, VA, reports that while his brain was in a disconnected state (the cortex which is considered the primary location of memory and consciousness was being attacked by the illness) he experienced heaven. (See video link below)
However, two elements of a portion of reported NDEs seem to remain inadequately explained in the research I found--the out of body awareness and advanced cognitive functioning including awareness of individuals and events that one would otherwise have no access to in their physical state. Some researchers are concluding that "self" exists independent of the body and is not a product dependent upon brain function--that there is perhaps an immaterial aspect to man afterall (van Lommel, 2011). What strikes this reader as most interesting are the reports of the NDE experiencer 1. seeing a deceased person who was thought to be alive (ex. Uncle Carl died in Alaska and Nephew Sam experienced an NDE in which he was revived and reported seeing Uncle Carl at which point his parents reported Sam having no previous knowledge of Uncle Carl's passing or a call comes in saying Uncle Carl just died). 2. seeing a deceased person otherwise unknown to the experiencer and upon being revived the report is cooroborated that the person existed (ex. the experiencer reports communicating with a "cousin" who unbeknownst to the experiencer was miscarried years before by an aunt.) (Greyson, 2010).
I am not about to jump on one boat or another and say all of these NDEs are true or that they aren't--a tendancy which seems prevalent among some of my friends---What I will say, is that although healthy skepticism may be warranted for such claims, as a believer in Christ and the afterlife He came to bring us, at some point I need to not just say, but also believe that "it's possible" He's given glimpses to others. I need to get over my knee-jerk reaction when someone brings up the topic of the paper-thin wall between this life and the next, and really start thinking and researching biblically through what I believe and why. I just wish we had a more detailed account from Lazarus of Bethany of his experiences while dead--it might help to see how the accounts we are hearing in pop culture and scholarly research articles line up.