Some NDEs reported in this study differed slightly from those reported in the literature. Except for the two deepest NDEs (Patients 10 and 11), they lacked the narrative quality and the patients did not appear to attach any significance to them or didn’t understand them. This suggests that there could be a sub-set of NDErs who have fragments of the NDE, but do not think about it again unless asked.
It is likely that the NDE is an under-reported phenomenon. Only two NDEs were spontaneously reported to members of staff. These were deep NDEs, as they incorporated many of the NDE elements, and the experiences had sufficient impact to motivate the individuals to relate the experience to others. The remaining thirteen NDEs would not have been disclosed had the patients not been interviewed.
Under-reporting is further supported by three patients who reported a NDE, yet died very soon after. It is possible that patients, who briefly recover from a life threatening illness, may have experienced a NDE during the acute phase of their illness but do not regain their health sufficiently in order to report it.
This study has shown that very few NDEs were elicited from the total sample, the majority of whom were given painkilling and sedative drugs. If drugs were the cause of the NDE then a larger percentage of NDEs would be expected. There were also cases in which some experiences similar to NDEs became very confusional once painkilling drugs had been administered. Similarly, a patient was unable to recall an experience he had previously related to his visitors following a further period of sedation in response to a deterioration of his condition.
All patients (except one patient who was suffering from sleep deprivation) who reported hallucinations had been given a combination of large amounts of sedative and painkilling drugs. Comparison of the NDEs and hallucinations reported has highlighted the differences between the two types of experiences. Whereas the NDEs followed a pattern, the hallucinations were very random, bizarre and related to actual occurrences and the actions of members of staff. On follow-up, those who had reported hallucinations could rationalise that they had been hallucinating, whereas NDErs remained adamant that their experience was real.