The 31-year-old patient J.S. underwent emergency surgical correction of an aortic dissection. She did not see or talk to members of the surgical team. It was not possible for her to see the machines behind the head section of the operating table as she was wheeled into the operating room. J.S. was given general anesthesia and her eyes were taped shut. In an out-of-body experience (OBE) during the operation, J.S. reported feelings of peace and joy and seeing a bright light. From a vantage point above, she reported seeing a nurse passing surgical instruments to the cardiothoracic surgeon and seeing anesthesia and echography machines located behind her head. Beauregard and his colleagues verified that her descriptions were accurate, confirmed by the surgeon who operated on her.
University of Montreal researchers Mario Beauregard, Évelyne Landry St-Pierre, Gabrielle Rayburn and Philippe Demers recently published a letter to the editor in the journal Resuscitation, reporting a retrospective study at Hôpital Sacré-Coeur, a research hospital affiliated with the university, of cases of deep hypothermic cardiocirculatory arrest from 2005-2011. Of 70 possible cases, a total of 33 patients responded with completed questionnaires and three patients (9%) reported conscious mental activity during the hypothermic procedure.
These hypothermic procedures are similar to "standstill" operation used with Pam Reynolds Lowery in 1991, resulting in Reynolds' profound near-death experience with veridical visual and auditory perceptions which has been widely analyzed and debated.
One case is particularly noteworthy. In 2008, 31-year-old patient J.S. underwent emergency surgery to correct an ascending aortic dissection, a very serious condition, using deep hypothermic cardiocirculatory arrest. Quoting from the researchers' report:
"J.S. did not see or talk to the members of the surgical team, and it was not possible for her to see the machines behind the head section of the operating table, as she was wheeled into the operating room. J.S. was given general anesthesia and her eyes were taped shut. J.S. claims to have had an out-of-body experience (OBE). From a vantage point outside her physical body, she apparently “saw” a nurse passing surgical instruments to the cardiothoracic surgeon. She also perceived anesthesia and echography machines located behind her head. We were able to verify that the descriptions she provided of the nurse and the machines were accurate (this was confirmed by the cardiothoracic surgeon who operated upon her). Furthermore, in the OBE state J.S. reported feelings of peace and joy, and seeing a bright light."
The researchers caution that it cannot be determined with certainty whether the subjective experience reported by J.S. occurred precisely during the 15-minute cardiocirculatory arrest. "Nonetheless, the tantalizing case of J.S. raises a number of perplexing questions. For this reason, we hope that it will stimulate further research with regard to the possibility of conscious mental activity during cardiocirculatory arrest."
Book by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary: The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
Beauregard, M., St-Pierre, E. L., Rayburn, G., and Demers, P. (January 2012). Conscious mental activity during a deep hypothermic cardiocirculatory arrest? Resuscitation, 83(1), e19. doi:10.1016/j.resuscitation.2011.09.027.