The study, being co-ordinated by Southampton University is expected to take three years. Doctors will be studying to determine whether it is possible for people with no brain activity, heartbeat or pulse are able to have an out of body experience.
Many people have claimed to have experienced strange white lights or tunnels after they have apparently 'died'. Some claim to have seen or heard, long dead family members and friends beckoning to them, some believing to be approaching heaven or even God. Others have reported to have an 'out of body experience', this is where the 'dead' patient is able to leave their body and look down at themselves and the area around them, often in hospitals people have said they have been looking down on doctors and nurses operating on them. A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.
Some of the tests that the researchers will be using will be very simple, including leaving items in hidden places in resuscitation areas that will only be visible from above.
Dr Sam Parnia who is leading the study, feels the idea of near death experiences has not been properly studied by science, "If you can demonstrate that consciousness continues after the brain switches off, it allows for the possibility that the consciousness is a separate entity. "It is unlikely that we will find many cases where this happens, but we have to be open-minded."
The AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation), follows on from an 18 month pilot carried out in several UK hospitals and will now be expanded to include European and USA hospitals making the study the largest of its kind.