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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Margaret M. Brennan, DMin (Loyola University Medical Center)
Description: Aware that many healthcare professionals, and physicians in particular, are uncomfortable talking with dying patients about death and what comes after death, the authors seek to provide evidence of postmortem existence. To this end, they survey the field of psychical research, that is, research of paranormal experiences such as ESP, deathbed apparitions, near death experiences, ghosts, and mediums.
Purpose: The authors believe that recognition of such phenomena can be a valid basis for belief in life after death. From this perspective, death ceases to be an end in itself, but a doorway to a new life. If physicians and others who work with the dying are informed about this research, the authors believe it will be easier to support patients in their dying rather than ignoring patients' questions or viewing death as a failure.
Audience: This book is intended for the medical community that is grounded in scientific research. The authors are not interested in the religious or the emotional dimensions of the dying patient's experience. Rather, they turn to the small but enduring field of psychical research to explore the meaning and possibility of life after death.
Features: This book is a valuable compendium to the field of psychical research. It offers documented examples of the various phenomena. Many of these cases are from the nineteenth and early twentieth century when interest in researching such experiences developed. Whether the examples presented will be sufficient to overcome skepticism about such phenomena, and whether physicians and others who work with the dying will be drawn to exploring such paranormal experiences, is a valid question. The authors conclude by acknowledging their own doubts and unresolved questions about life after death even as they search the literature for evidence.
Assessment: Without diminishing the fact that some people experience such phenomena, it is difficult to draw conclusions about what happens after we die. Belief about life after death may still be a more appropriate subject for theological and philosophical reflection than scientific inquiry.