A Near-Death Experience (NDE) is an episode where someone either came very close to death or were resuscitated after being clinically dead, and subsequently recounted experiences during the time they were "dead." The length of their time dead ranges from minutes to hours; the book 90 Minutes in Heaven recounts a lengthy NDE, and I once heard of a lady who woke up in the morgue and was able to describe in intricate detail her entire life from infancy (she then told the story to a rabbi who told it to me).
However, not all people who are pronounced clinically dead have this experience. A 1982 Gallup poll estimated that about 4 % of the population reported a NDE. Cardiologist Pim van Lommel found that 18 % of 344 heart-attack survivors who were clinically dead reported a NDE. Bruce Greyson reported that 10 % of Americans reported some recollection (The Spiritual Brain, pgs. 156-157).
The first part of a NDE usually consists of an Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) which we discussed here. However, a NDE goes beyond an OBE. Raymond Moody, in Life After Life, was the first to really make NDE part of mainstream consciousness and research. Although most people who have experienced a NDE have difficultly expressing it, finding it ineffable, Moody counts ten common, although not universal, elements to a NDE:
1) Hearing the news of one's death, (2) feelings of peace and quiet, (3) various unusual auditory sensations, (4) traveling through a dark tunnel, (5) out of body experience, (6) meeting other spirits (usually relatives or friends), (7) encountering a Being of light (sometimes described as God),(8) having a review of one's life,(9) reaching a border or limit, and (10) coming back to one's body.
A more current survey by van Lommel counts five general aspects: (1) OBE, (2) Holographic life review, (3) Encounter with deceased relatives or friends, (4) Return to the body, and (5) Disappearance of fear of death.
The effect of a NDE on one's life is nothing short of transformational. Besides losing the fear of death, they also find meaning in life (Life After Life, pgs. 82-87). They become more compassionate and loving (The Spiritual Brain, pg. 161) Even when NDE's follow an attempted suicide (which tend to not be so positive), the patient usually abandons thoughts of suicide (ibid, 159).