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Near-Death Experiences & The Life Lessons We Can Learn From Them

DR. PENNY SARTORI: “Dr. Penny Sartori worked as an Intensive Care nurse for 21 years and undertook UK’s 1st long-term prospective study on near-death experiences (NDEs). In this episode, Penny discusses the typical stages of near-death experiences, the Life Review process and how that changes people, what we learn from children’s NDEs, how people’s cultural beliefs affect their NDES, what NDEs teach us about life, the implications of NDEs with people in comas and taking medications like morphine, plus her personal advice to the bereaved, people who have had NDEs but not told anyone, and an important message to healthcare workers about our need to integrate spirituality into healthcare. We had some Skype issues during the interview, so there are two minor edits you might notice; but Penny wasn’t phased by it and displayed a calmness and kindness that’s infectious. Enjoy!” ~ Bob Olson, Afterlife TV

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Bob: Hey, everybody, Bob Olson here with Afterlife TV. You can find us at It’s where we search for evidence of life after death and ask the meaningful questions around that subject. Today’s subject is “near death experiences”. So many of you love this subject. And we’re going to talk about the lessons we can learn from them and we have someone who has researched near death experiences. In fact I think she was — if I can read this — UK’s first long-term perspective study, which is pretty impressive, sort of cutting edge. Her name is Dr. Penny Sartori. Penny, thanks for being on Afterlife TV.

Penny: Hi, Bob, thanks for having me. It’s lovely to be here.

Bob: Yeah, so exciting. We do have a big audience that loves this subject matter. There’s something about near death experiences that excite people and obviously that’s what happened with you. Why don’t you tell us about your background? So let everybody know that you’re a nurse and what you did there. And then what the experience or experiences were that got you interested in this subject matter?

Penny: Right, well, I used to be work as a nurse and I was a nurse for 21 years, and 17 of those years were in intensive care.

Bob: Wow.

Penny: It was shortly after I began working in intensive care that I realized death was really very frequent to happen to people of all ages and not just elderly people, very young people as well. And it really brought it home to me, but I think it was one night shift when I was caring for a man who was dying and he knew he was dying and I made a connection within that night. I had just come on duty and I was preparing everything to wash the patient and I adjusted the bed. And with that, the man nearly jumped out of bed in agony and our eyes connected. It’s almost as if I’d swapped places with him and I could feel what he was going through and what he was feeling. And that had a very deep and profound effect on me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all night.

The following day, I went home after my night shift, couldn’t sleep, and I phoned work mid-morning to find out how he was doing, and they said that he died 2 hours after I’d left the unit. So I started thinking, “What is death all about? Is it that bad that we’ve got to put patients through all this trauma at the end of their life when they know that they’re clearly dying?” So I started reading about death, because there were no courses available that dealt specifically with death in a critical care area. They were all palliative care, which is a very different approach.

And so in my reading, I came across near death experiences and I thought, “Oh, now this is really fascinating. These people are saying that death is nothing to be afraid of.” And I think I had a lot of preconceptions about these experiences. My training as a nurse had been very scientific and I’d always kind of been led to believe that these were some sort of hallucinations.

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: It was the brain as the brain is shutting down.

Bob: Oh, my God.

Penny: So I’d never really heard of them and investigated them much in death, but I think the more I started to read about them, the more my curiosity piqued. So I thought, “Well, I’m working in the ideal place to do my own research here,” and I thought, “Right, why don’t I do my own?” and that’s what I decided to do.

So I was really lucky because I was able to do my research under the supervision of two people in the UK who were experts in the field of near death experiences. That was Prof. Paul Badham and Dr. Peter Fenwick. So I was really lucky to have two great supervisors as well. So the research went on. I did the data collection over a period of 5 years where I interviewed patients in the intensive care unit and then it took another 3 years to write up and analyze all the data that I had. And then I think it took about 5 years to get over it all.

Bob: I bet it did. You ended up getting a PhD because of this, right?

Penny: Yes, that’s right.

Bob: And was that sort of an afterthought or was that you wanted to get a PhD, decided you would do it on this?

Penny: No, that was just a consequence of what I was doing really.

Bob: Wow.

Penny: I was fascinated and that’s all I wanted to do is to research near death experiences. And the way it just happened was that I happened to get a PhD at the end of it. That wasn’t a motivating factor; it was all about learning more about near death experiences that motivated me.

Bob: Oh, I love that. What a great result from doing all of this. And it’s interesting, because I don’t know, this story that you told about that first man, you actually experienced some… Well, he was having deathbed visions. Is that the same man that was having deathbed visions or was this someone else?

Penny: No, this was someone else. This man had quite a prolonged death. He was really quite in a lot of pain. It was as if he was suffering really at the end of his life and I just thought, “We need to understand death a lot more than what we do.”

Bob: And this particular man, did he not ask you to let him die peacefully?

Penny: Yes.

Bob: How did that take place?

Penny: Well, he couldn’t talk because he was connected to the ventilator via a tracheostomy. But he was mouthing the words to me, “Leave me alone, let me die, let me die in peace.”

Bob: Wow.

Penny: And that’s when my eyes connected and that’s when I felt what he was feeling and everything.

Bob: That’s a powerful experience I would imagine for a nurse. You’re trained to deal with someone physically or the physical symptoms and make sure they’re comfortable. And here someone brings up this new idea of, “Just let me be at peace.” I can see how that could have been a life-changing moment for you. I think that’s really cool.

Now you had had another man where you did experience what we call deathbed visions or pre-death visions or, what do they say, end of life experiences, all kinds of names, right?

Penny: Yes, that’s right. I can remember my very first day on the ward as a student nurse. And I was sitting in the office and the night nurse was handing over what had happened in the night shift. And she said, “Oh, yes, and the man in section C bed 6, he’ll be dead by the end of the morning because he has been talking to his dead mother since 3:00 a.m.” And I looked around and I thought, “Are they trying to wind me up because it’s my first day?” And everyone carried on writing as if it was the most normal thing.

And after the nightshift handed over, I went out and had a look at this man. And indeed I could see him gesturing to someone and he was talking to someone who I couldn’t see. I got called away to assist with other patients, but throughout the course of the morning, I went back and forth and I observed this man. And he was clearly communicating with someone and I can remember it was about 11:30 in the morning. I went up to his bedside, because he seemed more animated. And it was as if he had his arms outstretched as if he was trying to reach someone and he had this big smile on his face. And he almost half sat up in bed, outstretched his arms, and then he just relaxed, laid back down and then it looked like he gone to sleep but he actually died. So everything that the night nurse had said came true. He did actually die by the end of morning.

Bob: Yeah, that’s really, really interesting, and great introduction. And I am sure many, many nurses are recognizing this. Do they all know what it is or many of them very skeptical about it?

Penny: I think a lot of people just accept it because they’ve seen it so frequently now. You talk to any nurse and I am sure every nurse you speak to could give you some sort of story like that.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. And what’s cool about these experiences, because I think it happens a lot with Afterlife TV viewers, they hear about these things. And they recognize in hindsight, they had an experience like this. You had, in hindsight, recognized that you had this experience with your grandfather, correct?

Penny: Yes, that’s right and at the time when it was happening, I really didn’t know what it was and I didn’t really pay much attention to it. And as he was dying and I think it started about 2 or 3 days before he died, and he used to point to the doorway. And my grandmother, she used to get really spooked by it and she used to run out. But I can remember looking at him and I would say, “Well, there’s no one there. I can’t see anyone.” And I didn’t question it further. And now in retrospect, I wish that I had spent more time listening to what he was trying to communicate to me.

Bob: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love those stories. All right, so now you’re studying near death experiences. For those people who don’t know and I think a lot of people don’t know, because for one they’re hard to remember, can you tell us based on your research what the typical stages are that one goes through in a near death experience? And I’ll preempt that with every experience is a little bit different and it doesn’t mean that anybody has to go through these experiences for it to be a near death experience. But what’s more typical than the others?

Penny: Well, I think a lot of people tend to leave their body and they look down at the image and see the situation from above. Some people go through a dark tunnel towards a bright light and that bright light, although it’s very bright, it doesn’t hurt their eyes. And sometimes it has a magnetic quality and they feel very drawn to this light. Once in the light, they find themselves sometimes in beautiful gardens, lush green grass, vividly colored flowers. Sometimes there’s a scream in the background, running water, a little bridge, and very often they meet dead relatives or friends. And sometimes it’s people they didn’t know to be dead at the time of the experience. Sometimes they can meet a being of light and this being of light could be associated with the person’s culture. For example in the West, they’re more likely to see images of Jesus and in the East, perhaps a Hindu deity such as Krishna. Sometimes they come to a barrier or a point of no return; that could be anything. It could be a river, it could be a gate, it could be a doorway, but they know if they crossover that, they will not come back to life.

Some people have their life review and I am fascinated by the life review because it can have such an impact on people as well. And it’s almost as if they relive the whole of their life in great depth and they can sometimes re-live it from a third-person perspective. So they can feel how their actions have impacted on other people. So if they feel particularly unpleasant or even violent towards someone, they know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that unpleasantness and that violence. And conversely if they’re being particularly nice, so just nice to people, they get to feel what that impact has had on other people. And sometimes they realize it’s just simple things like smiling at someone, holding the door open for someone. It can have far reaching effects down the line as well. So that is particularly interesting to me.

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: And very often they’re sent back to life. They’re told it’s not their time that they have to go back to life. And in fact, there are some cases where people have woken up or revived after the near death experience and they feel quite angry at having been resuscitated as well. So that’s very interesting.

Bob: I know it’s interesting. How common is it that people have that experience where they’re told to go back during the NDE, but they actually don’t want to? Is it more common that they don’t want to and are just told that they have to?

Penny: Yes, it does seem to be very common that they’re told. Some people feel that they do make a conscience decision to return.

Bob: Mm-hmm.

Penny: Some people feel like they’re given the choice and then they think of their life back on Earth. And that decision is perhaps made for them and they just find themselves back in their body instantaneously. So it varies, really.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. And I imagine for those people… You would know really better than anybody because you’re talking to these people in a very analytical way but. So for those who didn’t want to come back and they say have families, maybe young children, they must go through a lot of guilt, that sort of emotional feelings about that. And what is it? Are they having a hard time just to find the way they felt there and then knowing that they had that everything was going to be okay for everyone? What is the issue really?

Penny: Yeah, I think a lot of them feel really guilty that the feeling of where they were was so wonderful that they were quite prepared to stay there yet they had young family and people who they loved dearly on this earth as well. So they were torn between the two, and I think because they sort of wanted to stay where they were, that gives them a great deal of guilt.

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: And sometime it can take them many years to come to terms with this guilt as well.

Bob: Well, what do you think helps them to work through that guilt? Does it help, first of all, just to hear other people’s stories and know that they’re not the only ones who felt that way?

Penny: Yes, it does and I tell you what are really great support groups as well, so that people who have had similar experiences can talk to people who understand because they have been through it as well. And that’s really, really important.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about children in these. How different are the children’s near death experiences from those of adults and what can we learn from these experiences?

Penny: Well, with the children, they’re very similar in many ways to the adult ones, but they can vary and that children tend to see more pets in the experiences. And sometimes they see relatives who are still alive as well, but again with the children’s experiences, they don’t really have any concept of death yet they tend to follow the set pattern as well.

So I give an example in the book of a man who contacted me and first he described his own experience, but he said, “This experience of my son happened when he was a young child. He was on the operating table and he had a cardiac arrest. And it was touch-and-go whether they would resuscitate him, but they did successfully resuscitate him.” That’s right. So this young boy had been resuscitated successfully.

So on his day off and his father said, “Well, where do you want to go? Should we go out somewhere?” And the little boy said, “Yes, I want to go to the park” And the father said, “Well, I haven’t taken you to a park. What park do you mean?” And he said, “The park that I went to when I was in the hospital.” He said, “The one through the tunnel.” And he went on to describe he’d got into this tunnel, and then come through the other side, and there was a park with lots of other children playing behind a white fence. And he went to climb over the fence and there was a man standing there with a white beard and he said, “No, you have to go back. You’re not allowed in yet. It’s too soon.” And he went back through the tunnel back into the hospital. And as his father said, “How can a small child with no concept of these experiences describe something that is so very much like the adult near death experiences?”

Bob: It’s amazing when you think about it. You know what’s amazing to me? Every time I hear these stories, they’re told that they have to go back. It’s very interesting because almost instantaneously they’re back in their bodies, right?

Penny: Yes, that’s right yes. And the interesting thing as well is that while they’ve been out of their bodies, they’ve been pain free, and if they were suffering any pain prior to the experience, as soon as they’re back in their body, that pain comes back immediately.

So a lot of people would say, “Well, that’s just the endorphins. That’s why they’ve got no pain.” But endorphins is a very slow onset of pain. So you would expect it to be more gradual. Whereas people who re-enter their body, it’s immediate. It’s not gradual onset.

Bob: Yeah, yeah and in fact, well, let’s just talk about your book right now. We’ll take this moment to talk about it, because it’s relevant in this particular thing, “The Wisdom Of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully,” Dr. Penny Sartori. There will be a link below this video and all the show notes. Fantastic book and you have a chapter that talks about all of these say reasons that people have come up with for why the body and brain create these experiences. And I’m talking about people who don’t believe that there are actual near death experiences where people go into the spirit world and such. And you’ve talked about each one of them. What seems to be the most popular one?

Penny: I think the most common explanation and these are all quite logical explanations when we think about them. I think the most common one is people would think that they had due to lack of oxygen.

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: But then with the research that I did in the hospital, some of the patients were having these experiences while being still oxygenated. So there are some examples in my research where blood was extracted at that time and their oxygen levels were normal. I know it’s a small sample, but still it shows that in some cases people are not lacking in oxygen yet still having this kind of experience.

A lot of people would say, “Is it due to the drugs that we gave?” because in the intensive care, we do give very potent drugs as well. And what I found when I analyzed my data was in fact the drugs that we gave patients are more likely to inhibit the experience or to turn it into a confusional experience. So I think there were a lot of people who were given loads of drugs yet they didn’t report the experience. So if it was due to drugs, I would have expected a higher frequency there.

Bob: That’s very interesting. Is morphine one of the more popular pain killers?

Penny: Yes, yes. Morphine is quite a popular drug of choice, yes.

Bob: There’s all kinds of drugs that people could be taking, but is it that drugs like morphine would really more prohibit them from being able to recall the experience or describe it later but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not having them, correct?

Penny: Yes, that’s right. It could well be that they’re having the experience but in some way it is confused a little bit or inhibited in some way by the Morphine as well.

Bob: Yeah, right.

Penny: In fact, there was one man and he had a near death experience but prior to that or a few weeks before, he had also been receiving Morphine and he had been having hallucinations and he was able to distinguish the difference between both experiences that he had. With the near death experience, it’s very precise and clear and lucid whereas with morphine, it’s very distorted and bizarre and irrational and when I followed up the patients in my study as well–because I did a comparison of people who have been hallucinating and people with the near death experience. And the ones who have been hallucinated on things like morphine and fentanyl and midazolam.

When I followed them up, they could rationalize that they had been hallucinating and they were quite embarrassed by their behavior. But then the people who’ve had the near death experience, they were very adamant that that was a real experience and one man said, “This is realer than real. Unless you’ve had the experience for yourself, you couldn’t possibly understand it.” So there were big differences then.

Bob: That’s really interesting. That’s fascinating to know. How about people who are in comas? How much experience have you had with people who are in a coma and then later came to tell you about the near death experience?

Penny: Yeah, well, quite a few people in my research who were in drug-induced comas and during the time that they were unconscious recalled very clear and lucid experiences that were going on at the time of unconsciousness as well.

Bob: Okay, fantastic. All right, I’m gonna get back to the children again because you said something, and I read in your book that a lot of times that children will recount their near death experiences seeing people who are alive at the time. So they’re seeing them during the NDE. What does that mean to you?

Penny: I don’t know. A lot of people have looked into this and we don’t know. Maybe it’s because of people that they’re familiar with in their kind of subconscious as well. Not really that sure why. They do see deceased relatives as well. And some people actually point out deceased relatives that they’ve never met, grandparents that have died before they were born, and then things like that. So that is quite interesting as well.

Bob: Yeah, that is. That is very interesting. You talked about the cultural beliefs already. So there does seem to be quite a connection between one person’s beliefs and how they describe their near death experience, the people that they see, that sort of a thing, but I’m curious. Do you think it’s changing the experience itself or just how they’re interpreting it?

Penny: I think it’s probably just the interpretation of it really, because I guess we’re all brought up with different cultural symbols around us. And even people in the West, even if they’re not religious necessarily, the imagery is still around them and things like that. So there are things in the sub-conscious, but I think it’s just as if it’s interpreted according to each individual’s cultural filter.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. You did describe the life review process and I think a lot of people agree that it’s one of the most interesting stages of the near death experience.

Penny: Yeah.

Bob: How does the life review typically affect the lives of these people who have had near death experiences and gone through that stage?

Penny: It makes them really wake up to the way they’ve been living their life. And sometimes they can be most embarrassed by watching their life review and some people find it a very traumatic experience just to relive their life. And sometimes they review their life in the presence of the being of light. In fact, there’s no judgment at all from the being of light. It’s the person themselves who is doing the judging and that being of light is acting as a source of comfort.

So I think what it makes them do, they have to face up to their behavior and the way in which they were living their life. So I think it makes them really readjust to how they then proceed in their life. And very often, people are more loving towards each other. They are more tolerant of other people then, because they have a slightly different insight and perhaps a more empathic view of what people are going through as well. So I think it has a very big effect on people, the life review.

Bob: It is interesting and I think one of the reasons why when you’re having a life review process and now you’re able to see through someone else’s eyes how your words and actions affect them, I imagine you come back with some sense of the reality of that now in the way that they’re reacting to people. Even when someone else is being maybe nasty to them, they probably get a better sense that there’s something behind that, might not have anything to do with them but in that way they become more empathetic.

Penny: Yeah

Bob: Does that ring true for you?

Penny: Yes, absolutely yes and I think that’s had a big effect for me really in my own life, just through reading about these experiences and studying them. It’s made me think and reflect on my own actions in life as well. So, it’s had a big knock on effect on me although I’ve not had a near death experience. I’ve learned from these people as well. It’s had a big impact.

Bob: Yeah, yeah. I agree with you. The research that I have done, I think I’m certainly going to be a much more loving and compassionate person than if I had not been in this field, working in this field. I think you had mentioned in the book that older children tend to describe their life reviews differently than younger children. I’m not sure if I got that right or if you said that kids who had an NDE when they were younger and then had another one when they were older, what was that you were talking about in the book?

Penny: Well, sometimes with the children as well, when they have the experience, they have this great yearning to go back into where they were as well. So that can be a long-lasting effect on them as well. Yeah, that can have its benefits, but also it can have that dark side of things as well. So they go through life yearning to go back to that place as well.

Bob: Yeah, and then I imagine the older children, now they’re starting to gain more beliefs and social expectations, and so their interpretations would reflect such, right?

Penny: Yes, that’s right, yes.

Bob: Other than the life review, are there other aspects of the near death experience that tend to change these near death experiencers’ lives, other things that are just as significant or close to significant as the life review?

Penny: Well, something that can have big impact on people is when they meet dead relatives as well and they can see the relative. They’re looking younger and they look radiant. So if they remember their loved one as they were dying maybe and they didn’t look as if they were suffering and they have that bad memory of that, when they meet them again and they see them in the afterlife state if you like, it gives them a different perspective. And they’re comforted a lot more through seeing them in that state really, that they look much better.

Bob: You’ve known a lot of these people for a long time probably. I imagine you see them more than once.

Penny: Yes.

Bob: Yeah. And do you notice that when anyone of them goes through a loss, they lose a loved one, that they seem to be able to deal with their grief at least differently, maybe not quite so sad or. . .

Penny: Yes.

Bob: . . . tragically?

Penny: Yes, definitely I have seen that. In fact, a few of the people who I have met, I have kept in touch with them. One man in particular over a period of about 15 years. And after his near death experience, it was about 5 years later that his wife died. And that’s why he had returned, because he wanted to be with wife. And then when she died, I thought that may have had quite a devastating effect. But the fact that he’d had his experience, it given him a different perspective and it helped him to cope with that loss.

Bob: Yeah, yes.

Penny: So it’s a good 8 years since she has died now and he is getting on fine. He still loves her and he still misses her, but he has coped with it better than he thought he would have.

Bob: Yeah, yeah and I imagine that’s true for you too. Have you lost anyone since you’ve been doing this research and felt like you are. . .

Penny: Yeah.

Bob: . . . better equipped?

Penny: Oh, yes, definitely. Since doing the research, there’s two members of my family who I’ve lost – my grandfather first of all and then my other grandmother. And without a doubt if I haven’t done this research, I think that the grieving process would have been a lot more prolonged and it would have been harder to deal with.

But an interesting case that I came across as well, in fact last week a lovely lady emailed me and she had written to me back in 2002 after she’d read about some of my work in a magazine. And at that time, she had a near death experience and didn’t really understand it. And she had been sent back to life. And during the experience, she has been told by these beings of light that she had work to do concerning her husband. And when she got back, she didn’t remember what it was. She didn’t remember a thing. But she had had this experience and couldn’t understand it.

And then last week, she wrote to me again and she said she understood her experience now, because in about 2008, her husband had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And in the weeks and the days leading up to his death, she was able to share about her near death experience with her husband. And she knew that it gave him great comfort and that it helped him to have a very peaceful transition into death. And she said, after what’s known, reflecting back, she totally understands why she came back although she can’t exactly remember the words of the people in the experience. She now understood that what her purpose for coming back to life. And afterwards, it was interesting after her husband had died. There was a series of little messages really from him that were very symbolic, which was as if he was giving her some after death communications as well.

Bob: Wow.

Penny: Yeah, it gave her a different perspective on everything and it then fully integrated the experience into her life and she feels she can now talk about it as well.

Bob: Oh, that’s beautiful in many ways and many levels to that. You as a nurse, do you ever feel you have the opportunity when working as a nurse with someone who is in the dying process to share your experiences with them? And if so, what kind of response do you get?

Penny: Yes, in fact, I’ve found my research to be really beneficial in caring for dying patients. And it’s usually over a period of days when you’ve built up a bit of a relationship with the patient. I don’t want to just come out and say, “I have done this research.”

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: It’s important that you build up the trust, and you know that they’re going to be receptive, and it’s appropriate for me to mention it.

Bob: Right.

Penny: And I usually start with… Sometimes people express fear of death. That’s very, very common. So I often say to them, “I’ve done some research and I’ve spoken to people who have clinically died and they have said it was a lovely experience. If you want, I can explain more about it.” And very often they ask me to tell them more about my research.

So I’ve shared about what people have told me and the kinds of things that they are likely to encounter. And it’s given them a great deal of peace. They look more peaceful and they seem a lot happier about it as well. And it gives them a lot to think of. So I found it to be really beneficial and I think it’s given me the confidence to talk about death with patients as they’re dying as well.

Bob: Yeah, a lot of people who have had near death experience, I think end up working in hospice probably because they don’t really know how else to utilize that experience. And from your experience, how open is the hospice community to this sort of thing?

Penny: I think the hospice community is great because it does really embrace the importance of these experiences because it’s not just about the physical aspects of patient care. It is about the whole being of the patient, the spiritual aspects as well. And they are so crucial at the end of life and they’re so poorly understood as well in general really. So I think the hospice movement is very much geared up. And I can remember in 2006, I spoke at a conference, an IANDS conference in Houston in Texas. And it was at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

And it was really great to see that actual people in the audience were physicians from the hospice there. And they were really interested in this and they wanted to embrace it and to implement aspects of this in patient care as well. So they really are recognizing the importance of this, which is so great. It’s such a breakthrough.

Bob: It is nice and I hope that this information is integrated more and more not only in hospice, but also in all of healthcare, which we’ll talk about more in a moment. You talk a lot about how NDEs teaches a lot about life. What are some of the key components that we learn about life by studying NDEs?

Penny: I think a lot of people, especially during the life review, they realize the inter connectivity of everything. That everything is one, that we’re all part of a great whole. And I think the basic message of the near death experience is to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. And if you think of that message, that is at the heart of all the great wisdom traditions. Every single tradition has said that. And I think if everyone did live like that, can you think how different the world would be? It would just be amazing. And I think when people have that direct experience of that consciousness, I think that’s what really does make them realize that that is the way life is. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. And I think these experiences as well, they make people more altruistic.

And if you look at the work of Darwin, a lot of his work has been kind of not misinterpreted but we only get to hear about the aspect where he says about survival of the fittest. But a really big aspect of Darwin’s work, he was to find out that we’ve survived as a species because we have this great ability to love and empathize. And when people are more altruistic, that’s what they do, they empathize more and they love more people more. And I think that’s really important for our evolution as well. So I think these are really evolutionary experiences as well. And I think we all can learn so much.

And these people have got a great message and all we have to do is listen to them and hear what they say. And we can all benefit without having to nearly die.

Bob: Yeah, wow. Very powerful, very powerful. I have three questions. Hopefully we’ll get through it. Skype will let us get through it. If not, we’ll do one more segment where we can get through it. My first question is, after all that you’ve learned, we’ve a lot of people who watch Afterlife TV, who are grieving a loss of a loved one, and I wondered what kind of message would you have for somebody who is going through that experience based on everything that you’ve done and learned.

Penny: Well, I would encourage them to read as many accounts of near death experiences as they can. And if they know of anyone who has had an experience, go and spend with them and talk to them, because that can also be a great source of comfort but also perhaps it would give them a different perspective on things as well. And I know that there are a lot of people now, therapists who use accounts of near death experiences to help people through the grieving process. And it’s proven to be very successful. So I would suggest reading lots of accounts of these experiences.

Bob: Yeah, and the IANDS. People could go to the IANDS, anybody can go to those IANDS. They can look it up online to find a local chapter near them where they can go to some of these meetings or conventions that they offer and listen to these people tell their stories, right?

Penny: Yes, that’s right and they’re a big supportive community there, so they’re very beneficial, yes.

Bob: Yeah, I don’t know that too many people think of it in terms of grief support, but it certainly is an option and I think it would be a great one for a lot of people. So my second question then, in this line of thinking, is what message would you have for people… There’s a lot of them and I know there’s a lot of Afterlife TV viewers, they’ve had a near death experience or they think they have. It has never been acknowledged for them. And maybe probably because they are afraid to share it with anyone so they never have. What do you usually tell people the first time you run into someone like this who hasn’t shared this experience with anyone and they’re not even really sure of what they had is real or not?

Penny: Well, first of all, I would say to them that they’re not alone; they’re not the only one to have this experience because it can be very isolating. They’ve had this wonderful experience. They don’t know quite how to express it, don’t fully understand it and yet they know that there’s something there that they want to talk about maybe and maybe not talk about it. But I would encourage them to find someone who is empathetic and someone who they trust and share the experience with them.

Now very often I think a lot of attitudes are now changing and people are recognizing that the near death experience is a highly valid phenomenon. So I think they would be surprised that a lot of people would be really interested in what they have to say. So I would seek someone out. If someone does get a bad reaction or not the reaction that they were expected, don’t be disappointed by that. Just try and find someone else. Not everyone understands the experiences but there are people out there who do understand and they would be only too happy to listen to them as well.

Bob: Yeah, yeah that’s certainly my experience as well. A lot of people fascinated by this subject matter can’t really get enough of hearing about different people’s near death experiences and yet we have all these people who are afraid to share them because of certainly the ones that don’t exist out there and they can shut people down…

Penny: Yeah.

Bob: …all too quickly, yeah.

Penny: Absolutely and I can remember I worked with doctors. And it was ten years later that a doctor came up to me, and I’ve known him all that time, and he said, “I’m going to tell you something now, but I’ve had a near death experience as well but I didn’t want to tell you about it until now.”

Bob: Wow, wow. There’s a passage. I remember the page, believe it or not. Page 151, if I can get through it, I’ll just… You’re talking about someone, one particular person. She found she was unable to discuss her experience with anyone as no one understood what she was trying to tell them. First, you tried to talk with her husband who didn’t understand it and they ended up divorcing. Then the pastor of her local church told her it was the work of the devil. She then went to her doctor who never heard of NDEs and referred her to a psychiatrist who had also never heard of NDEs who suggested that she has unresolved emotional conflict that had caused delusions and that she should try long-term psychotherapy for the delusions and tranquilizers for anxiety.

She was increasingly confused, but she felt such positive changes in her life and it was many years later when she came across a book on NDEs that she was finally able to understand her near death experience. That’s it. It just says it all right there, doesn’t it?

Penny: It does, yes, absolutely.

Bob: Brilliant, brilliant writing. So the last question that I wanted to ask you in this line of thinking was, “What message do you have for hospital administrators or doctors or nurses in reference to – because you say this so well in your book – the need to integrate spirituality into healthcare?”

Penny: Yeah, I think there is so much emphasis on the physical that we totally neglect the spiritual aspect of patient care. And I think that is really something that is crucial to understanding patients and to improve the patient experience as well. So I think it’s really crucial that these experiences and all kind of spiritual aspects are introduced into the education of all healthcare workers.

I think this is like paramount you know because you’re right at the example of that lady now who went to sort out people for help.

Bob: Yeah.

Penny: People understood near death experiences. How many people out there have been given tranquilizers and pills because they’ve been misunderstood about their experience? If we understood these better, we could save the health service millions and millions of dollars over the years. So I think it’s crucial that we’ve taken note of these experiences now and that we put to them into the education of all healthcare workers. It’s essential.

Bob: And you draw a distinction between religion and spirituality? How was it that you say that?

Penny: Well, religion tends to follow set practices and rituals. Whereas spirituality, maybe people feel very spiritual but they don’t necessarily feel like they have to go to a church or they don’t particularly worship a particular deity but they have a sense of faith in different ways and spiritual aspects of patient care of about looking at the whole thing of their person, everything that gives meaning to their life really.

Bob: Yeah, yeah, right. Your website is Dr Penny Sartori, doctor with the

Penny: Mm-hmm.

Bob: Links will be in the show notes below this video. Once again, your book “Wisdom of Near Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully.” You got another book you’re thinking about?

Penny: Yes, I am. I am planning another book at the moment and that should be out in a couple of years by the time the publishing process takes.

Bob: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a slow process. It’s a slow process. Thank you so much. Do you have any final words, any kind of message, anything that you wanted to say or promote, whatever it may be that we missed out on today? There’s so much we could have talked about.

Penny: There is. People, don’t be afraid to share your experiences and I think it’s really important if someone does share their experience with you that you validate it for them – that’s really crucial – and listen to what they have to say. Even if you don’t particularly understand it or you don’t really think that there’s anything other than hallucinations maybe, it’s important that you validate it and say, “Other people have had this experience. Maybe you should seek people to talk to about it.”

Bob: Yeah, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful way to end it. Thank you for your tolerance with our Skype issues.

Penny: Yeah.

Bob: You’re even more tolerant after doing all this work, me included. And thanks, keep us updated on your new book when it comes out. We’d love to have your back.

Penny: Great.

Bob: And it was really enjoyable talking here from southern Maine. So where are you in England?

Penny: In Swansea.

Bob: Swansea, beautiful. All right, well, thank you so much. We’ll see you again soon.

Penny: Okay, thank you, Bob.

Bob: Bye, everybody.

Penny: Bye-bye.

Afterlife TV is presented by Afterlife Investigator & Psychic Medium Researcher Bob Olson, who is the author of Answers about the Afterlife: A Private Investigator’s 15-Year Research Unlocks the Mysteries of Life after Death.

Check out Bob Olson’s other sites: (a directory of hundreds of psychics & mediums by location with reviews & Instant Readings) & (his personal recommended list of tested psychics and mediums) or visit Bob’s Facebook Page. Bob also has a popular workshop for psychics and mediums at

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