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Hospital in 'life after death' study

PUBLISHED: 10:49 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:19 05 July 2010

A Norfolk hospital is set to take part in a major international study of near-death experiences.

The James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston will be involved in the research looking at the startling phenomenon.

A Norfolk hospital is set to take part in a major international study of near-death experiences.

The James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston will be involved in the research looking at the startling phenomenon.

For believers, a bright tunnel of light or seeing their body lying on a hospital bed can be seen as the ultimate proof of life after death.

However, for sceptics the images are nothing more than brain cells sending random messages, hallucina-tions or long-forgotten memories resurfacing.

Now these conflicting arguments about what happens when we die could soon be resolved by doctors from JPH, who are taking a leading role in the study.

Staff from JPH will be trying to ascertain if reports of people floating above their bodies on hospital beds or seeing a bright tunnel as they die can be scientifically proven.

Over a three-year period, doctors at the JPH will set up images in hospital wards that can only be seen from the ceiling.

People who are resuscitated after a cardiac arrest or heart attack will then be asked if they can recall anything from their ordeal to see if they spotted the images.

If patients who have experienced clinical death can prove they have seen the covert images then it may help scientists unravel the mysteries of what happens to the brain during death.

Yesterday it was confirmed that the hospital will join the international Aware (Awareness during Resuscitation) programme - the world's largest ever study on near-death experiences.

Latest studies show that between 10-20pc of people who go through a cardiac arrest and experience clinical death say they remember large parts of their ordeal and notice other phenomena.

During the Aware project 1,500 patients in England, America and Austria will assessed after they go through a cardiac arrest.

Dr Sam Parnia, the intensive care doctor leading the study, said: “Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment.

“It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning.

“What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”

Cardiac arrests can last for up to an hour.

The launch of the Aware international study follows on from an 18-month pilot project headed by The University of Southampton and which involved hospitals in London, Swansea, Bournemouth, Stevenage, Northampton and Salisbury.

The expansion of the Aware scheme will include Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, and hospitals in Oxford, Swindon, Birmingham, East Sussex, America and Austria.

As well as the near-death study, a research team will also be looking at ways to improve the medical and psychological care of patients who have undergone cardiac arrest.

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