blinkstar.gif (494 bytes) Dr. Melvin Morse’s research

Melvin Morse MD is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington. He has studied near-death experiences in children for 15 years. He is primarily interested in learning how to use the visions that surround death to heal grief. The stories that children have told him about what it is like to die have lessons for all of us, especially those attempting to understand the meaning of death or the death of a child.

In 1982, while a Fellow for the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Morse was working in a clinic in Pocatello, Idaho. He was called to revive a young girl who nearly died in a community swimming pool. She had had no heart beat for 19 minutes, yet completely recovered. She was able to recount many details of her own resuscitation, and then said that she was taken down a brick lined tunnel to a heavenly place. When Dr. Morse showed his obvious skepticism, she patted him shyly on the hand and said: "Don’t worry, Dr. Morse, heaven is fun!".

The photo on the left is a drawing which depicts this young girl being resuscitated by my partner Dr. Christopher, the doctor who is working on her. She has floated above her body, and met the seated figure.
     She told me that the seated figure "was Jesus. He is very nice."

He wrote up her case for the American Medical Association’s Pediatric Journal as a "fascinoma", meaning a strange yet interesting case and returned to cancer research. One night he saw Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on television describing to a grieving mother what her child went through when she died. She said that the girl floated out of her body, suffered no pain, and entered into heaven. He thought this was quite unprofessional of a psychiatrist, and vowed to prove her wrong.

He and his colleagues at Seattle Children’s Hospital designed and implemented the first prospective study of near-death experiences, with age and sex matched controls. He studied 26 children who nearly died. He compared them to 131 children who were also quite ill, in the intensive care unit, mechanically ventilated, treated with drugs such as morphine, valium and anesthetic agents, and often had a lack of oxygen to the brain, BUT, they were not near-death.

He found that 23/26 children who nearly died had near-death experiences whereas none of the other children had them. If near-death experiences are caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, drugs, hallucinations secondary to coma, or stress and the fear of dying, then the control would have been expected to also have NDEs. They did not, indicating that near-death experiences happen to the dying.

He then completed the Seattle Study, a long term follow-up of children who had near-death experiences and documented their transformation as adults. He again used control groups, including children who nearly died but didn’t have NDEs.

He found that having an near-death experience is good for you, resulting in a love for living. One girl summed up the transformation as learning that "life is for living and the light is for later".

Adults who had near-death experiences gave more money to charity than control subjects, volunteered in the community, were in helping professions, did not suffer from drug abuse, use many over the counter medications, and ate more fresh fruit and vegetables than control populations.

He also found that they often could not wear watches as they would mysteriously break, and often had electrical conduction problems such as shorting out lap top computers and erasing credit cards.

Finally, Dr. Morse studied the entire range of death related visions. He studied parents who had infants die of SIDS, and found that 25% of parents had a vivid premonition of the event which they often documented in a journal or diary, or telling their doctor. He also has studied cases of shared dying visions and after-death communications.

His most recent research is on the mind-body healing aspects of NDEs. He is currently working on a project of studying immune system changes triggered by NDEs. He also is working on localizing what areas of the brain are linked to spiritual visions, and has a particular focus on the right temporal lobe as a communication link with an interactive universe.

He is currently working with parent bereavement groups to learn how to best use spiritual visions to help to heal grief. Dr. Morse feels strongly that by understanding that there is a scientific and biological component to near-death experiences, we can understand that the experiences are "real", at least as real as any other human perception and experience. We must stop trivializing and dismissing death related visions as hallucinations of a dysfunctional brain, and start to understand that they are a normal aspect of the human experience. We all have spiritual intuitions and visions, now we must learn to listen to them and trust what they have to say.

Dr. Melvin Morse

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