Fear of Dying
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Fear of Dying
Comments by Veronica - 14 Dec 2004

Although I subscribe in part to Steve's referenced material in conclusion for the feeling of calm experienced in a near death experience, I would offer the other scientific theory, most of you may be familiar with as well. The theory is most concisely presented in a book entitled, "How we die" by Sherwin B. Nuland. The author is a surgeon who teaches at Yale. Here is a key quote from his book, in regard to the reason many people experience calm during the near death experience,

"Such self-generated opiates do exist, and they are called endorphins. They were given that name shortly after their discovery about twenty years ago-by contracting the two words that describe them: They are endogenous morphine-like compounds. Endogenous appeared in the lexicon of medicine at least a century earlier, adapted from the Greek endon, meaning "within" or "inner." and and gennao, meaning "I produce." accordingly, it refers to substances or conditions we create within our own bodies. Morphine, of course, recalls Morpheaus, the Roman god of sleep and dreams.

Several structures in the brain are capable of secreting endorphins in response to stress, including the hypothalamus and an area called the periaqueductal gray matter, as well as the pituitary gland. Together with ACTH, a hormone that activates the adrenal glands, endorphin molecules are known to bind themselves, as do the other narcotics, onto foci, called receptors, on the surfaces of certain nerve cells. The effect is to alter normal sensory awareness. Endorphins seem to play a significant role not only in raising pain threshold but also in altering emotional responses.

In addition, there is evidence that they interact with the adrenaline-like hormones as well. In the normal nonstressed, noninjured person, there is no evidence of the pain-relieving and mood-altering action of endorphins. It requires some degree of trauma, whether physical or emotional for them to swing into action"

My own experience, belief in God and reading through the years on this topic, persuade me to believe that the truth may be a bit of both Steve's final conclusion (Rather, they recall the calm and (with the light at the end of the tunnel and all that) a sense that the death of the body is not equivalent to the death of the self.) and Dr. Nuland's self induced-morphine like calm conclusion.

I love the quote by the explorer David Livingstone when he recalls his own near death experience when he was attacked by a lion in Africa. He describes his near death experience and the lack of terror he experienced, but instead complete calm he felt during the attack. He likened his emotions to what patients under the influence of chloroform describe. He speculated that the particular calm he felt, even while face to face with the lion, is probably produced in all animals and if so, "is yet another merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death"


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