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A glimpse of the afterlife through near-death experiences

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New science about near-death experiences is eliciting strong responses from believers and the skeptics.

The topic was the focus of an April article in The Atlantic

As medical technology continues to improve, it's bringing people back from ever closer to the brink of death. A small, lucky handful of people have made full or nearly full recoveries after spending hours with no breath or pulse, buried in snow or submerged in very cold water. Surgeons sometimes create these conditions intentionally, chilling patients' bodies or stopping their hearts in order to perform complex, dangerous operations; recently they have begun trying out such techniques on severely injured trauma victims, keeping them between life and death until their wounds can be repaired.

All of this makes NDEs perhaps the only spiritual experience that we have a chance of investigating in a truly thorough, scientific way. It makes them a vehicle for exploring the ancient human belief that we are more than meat. And it makes them a lens through which to peer at the workings of consciousness--one of the great mysteries of human existence, even for the most resolute materialist.

MPR News' Kerri Miller talked to two guests about what happens to our brains when we experience these phenomena.

During the discussion, an ICU nurse called in to tell a story about a patient he once had who had a NDE: