The "denture man NDE" is one of those rare, apparently veridical near death experiences. This is an important NDE because it is veridical, apparently proving the reality of a non-localized consciousness, otherwise known as a soul. Therefore all serious students of the NDE should perform a careful analysis of the evidence to see whether this case truly is proof of a non-localized consciousness. The first English language mention of this case was published in the landmark article by the Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel during 2001 in the international medical journal, The Lancet (see page 2041 in the original 2001 Lancet article by Pim van Lommel).
Early in 2009 I published a website with the known facts of the case as revealed by a transcript of an extensive interview with the male nurse involved (see Terugkeer 2008), together with an analysis of the case below. The Summer edition of Journal of Near Death Studies contains two articles with an ongoing discussion of this case.
This turned out to be a rather more extensive website than originally planned, so here is an index of links to sections of this website.
Unfortunately, many people do not have access to the Dutch language transcripts upon which this story is based. The first anyone outside The Netherlands learned of this case, was in Pim van Lommel's well known article published in the medical journal, The Lancet (see page 2041 in the original 2001 Lancet article by Pim van Lommel).
During a night shift an ambulance brings in a 44 year-old cyanotic, comatose man into the coronary care unit. He had been found about an hour before in a meadow by passers-by. After admission, he receives artificial respiration without intubation, while heart massage and defibrillation are also applied. When we want to intubate the patient, he turns out to have dentures in his mouth. I remove these upper dentures and put them onto the 'crash car'. Meanwhile, we continue extensive CPR. After about an hour and a half the patient has sufficient heart rhythm and blood pressure, but he is still ventilated and intubated, and he is still comatose. He is transferred to the intensive care unit to continue the necessary artificial respiration. Only after more than a week do I meet again with the patient, who is by now back on the cardiac ward. I distribute his medication. The moment he sees me he says: 'Oh, that nurse knows where my dentures are'. I am very surprised. Then he elucidates: 'Yes, you were there when I was brought into hospital and you took my dentures out of my mouth and put them onto that car, it had all these bottles on it and there was this sliding drawer underneath and there you put my teeth.' I was especially amazed because I remembered this happening while the man was in deep coma and in the process of CPR. When I asked further, it appeared the man had seen himself lying in bed, that he had perceived from above how nurses and doctors had been busy with CPR. He was also able to describe correctly and in detail the small room in which he had been resuscitated as well as the appearance of those present like myself. At the time that he observed the situation he had been very much afraid that we would stop CPR and that he would die. And it is true that we had been very negative about the patient's prognosis due to his very poor medical condition when admitted. The patient tells me that he desperately and unsuccessfully tried to make it clear to us that he was still alive and that we should continue CPR. He is deeply impressed by his experience and says he is no longer afraid of death. 4 weeks later he left hospital as a healthy man. (Lommel 2001)
This is a wondrous story. But the Lancet article contains no mention of the year in which the events occurred. All we know is that Pim van Lommel was not in any way connected with the case, because at the time he was a cardiologist working in the city of Arnhem. This account is actually far to vague for any serious anaysis. So what are the facts related to this story?
The first account of this story was published during August 1991 by Vincent Meijers in a magazine called "Cordiaal" (see page 11 in Autumn "Terugkeer"). This was the result of an interview with the male nurse (TG) who was head nurse responsible for cardiac resuscitation at the time. On 2 February 1994, Mr. Ap Addink, a co-worker of the Merkawah Foundation conducted the first extensive interview of TG (page 12 in Autumn "Terugkeer"). This latter, or the Vincent Meijers account, were presumably the basis for the story in the subsequent 2001 Lancet article.
During 2008, Titus Rivas conducted another, very detailed interview with TG. An extensive transcript of this interview was published in the 2008, Autumn edition of "Terugkeer" (pages 12-20 Autumn "Terugkeer"). Commentary by TG intended as a supplement to this interview was published in the 2008, Winter edition of "Terugkeer" (page 8 in Winter "Terugkeer"). Copies of the Dutch versions of this interview are difficult to come by outside the Netherlands. Moreover, Dutch is not a language in which many people are fluent. So I made a English language translation of this interview, which was checked for accuracy by the editor of Terugkeer and Titus Rivas, the person who conducted this interview. English readers can read the English language translation of this interview by clicking on this link.
The content of the 2008 interview with TG did not differ from the earlier interviews (pages 12 and 20 in Autumn "Terugkeer"), so we can assume the memory of TG is accurate as to what he remembers. TG saw this man for a short moment one more time after his discharge from the hospital at the outpatient clinic, but did not speak about his experience at the time. Some time afterwards, TG saw a newspaper announcement of the death of this man (see page 12 Autumn "Terugkeer"). Accordingly the experiences reported by the man who underwent the resuscitation, are unconfirmed by cross-examination of the patient concerned, simply because the man died sometime after after discharge from hospital (page 12 Autumn "Terugkeer"). Moreover, no cross-confirmation with any other of the parties concerned was possible, or has been done. All this means that our knowledge of this "denture man NDE" is solely from the memories of TG at the time of the incident, and his memories of what the patient told him when he spoke with the man when he saw him again on the cardiology ward a few days after the succesful resuscitation in 1979.
In other words, the denture-man NDE is an experience remembered by one person, TG from an incident occurring during 1979. This incident made a deep and lasting impression on TG. But the reality of this incident was subsequently never cross-checked or confirmed by other persons. This does not mean the experience did not occur, nor does it diminish the reality of the event.
But we must first discuss an important aspect of the transcript of TG before proceeding any further with this fascinating NDE report. This is the differentiation between verifiable fact versus opinion and inference. Just as any other transcript or witness account, these points must be carefully differentiated and separated. So what are we talking about?
These elements are in no way specific to the transcript of TG. Such elements are to be found in all transcripts of any event related by a witness. This in no way reduces the value of the transcript of TG. His transcript contains his verifiable observations, as well as his opinions and inferences based upon experience and learning. And what do we find in the transcript of TG? For example, TG stated clearly that Mr. B could not have been conscious, for various reasons.
53. Interviewer: Naturally, the insertion of the Mayo-tube occurred, at least so it seems to me, within a context when there was still no evidence of a heart rhythm?
54. TG: Yes, there was none at the time. No heart rhythm.
55. Interviewer: So no blood circulation and therefore also no brain activity.
56. TG: Yes!
182. Interviewer: So then it is out of the question that he had enough brain activity at that moment, or residual activity in his senses to have observed everything by hearing.
183. TG: Yes, it is out of the question. No, at that moment I can be 100% sure of that, no rhythm, no circulation, and I cannot imagine that after all that time that there was enough oxygen in his brain to listen, or see, or to interpret what he observed. No.
These statements are inferences and opinions based upon learning and professional experience, but are not based upon verifiable measurements at the time. For example:
These somewhat inconsistent inferences and opinions were very reasonable when one considers the condition of Mr. B as described by TG. Indeed, at the time this event occurred, no one would have imagined that Mr. B was unconscious. So the opinions and conclusions of TG at the time were normal and expected. Subsequently he realized that Mr. B was conscious and aware of his surroundings, finally stating in his commentary that:
The most important thing I learned from this event for the rest of my life is that in cases of unconsciousness, coma, sedation (sleep with the aid of medication), anesthesia, is that I always try to take into account that patients may experience, feel, and hear things around him, in spite of what we as professionals may think. And that therefore great caution should be exercised with anything we say or do in with such a patient. Never assume that a patient who is unconscious / comatose / clinically dead / anesthetized or sedated, can make no observations in whatever form.
This is the important difference between opinion and inference, and that of verifiable fact. Mr. B was conscious during the resuscitation in the hospital. Regardless whether this was consciousness of a soul, or consciousness of the body, he was conscious during this period. That was verified by Mr. B's account of his resuscitation.
All this does not reduce the value of TG's testimony in any way. All nurses and physicians involved with such a resuscitation during 1979, as well as during 2010, would have thought the same.
The first part of the story relates to the discovery of the man and the arrival of the ambulance.
Here are two views of the village of Ooij taken from the Kruisweg (translation "crucifix road"). The story does not tell us whether he was found on one of the fields near these houses, but it gives an idea of the countryside around the village of Ooij. These are the facts of his discovery and transport to the hospital in Nijmegen.
The ambulance then came from the nearby city of Nijmegen, and brought him to the Canisius-Wilhelmina Hospital there where he was resuscitated. How long would this have taken? Below is a clickable road map of the most likely route taken by the ambulance (click on the image to go to Google maps.)
The distance between the village of Ooij and the Canisius-Wilhelmina Hospital is about 12 km (a little more than 7 miles). The ambulance could not have travelled faster on these roads than 80-100 km/hr (50-60 mph). So you have time required to call the ambulance, time to get into the ambulance, time required to drive to the place where the man lay, time to walk-run from ambulance to the man, time to assess the situation. All in all, a total of about 15 minutes at least. This delay between discovery and ambulance resuscitation has several important implications.
Implications of time between falling and arrival of ambulance
The delay between falling, his discovery in the field, and the arrival of the ambulance has far-reaching implications. We know from extensive medical experience, that for people with a normal body temperature, brain damage occurs after 4 minutes of cardiac arrest, and death after 12 minutes (see Meyer 2000). We know the body temperature of this man at the time of discovery and admission was lower than normal. After all, the ambulance personnel found him lying on the grass in a cold open field, ice-cold to the touch. It is well known that people with low body temperature can survive without any circulation for longer periods than those with normal body temperature. This is the well-known fact that cold meat decays more slowly than warm meat. Total circulatory arrest for 45 minutes is possible at temperatures of 12-14 degrees Celsius (Dobelle 1997, Casthely 1985, Ergin 1982). Increasing body temperature, decreases the time for safe cardiac arrest, so at 16 degrees Celsius safe cardiac arrest time is only 37 minutes (Ti 2003), and it is even less as the temperature rises. So we know from medical fact and experience that he must have had some heart rhythm, otherwise he would have simply have died, or developed severe brain damage while waiting for the ambulance.
This man would have been walking on this field appropriately clothed for the weather, and with a normal body temperature. So when he collapsed, his body temperature would have been normal. Clothing slows body cooling, which is why people wear warm clothing when the weather is cold. So if this man had no heart rhythm pumping blood around his body when he collapsed, he would have developed extensive brain damage and died before his body had a chance to cool. In other words, this man most likely collapsed due to a period of abnormal heart rhythm, but still a heart rhythm that pumped blood around his body. And his clothed body slowly cooled down as he lay there for an undetermined time before discovery.
Resuscitation by the ambulance personnel in the field
The facts relating to the initial resucitation by the ambulance personnel are known.
This brings us to the resuscitatiion in the hospital in Nijnmegen where TG was the head nurse for cardiac resuscitation.
As was intimated by TG, the most likely cause of consciousness was the efficient resuscitation with the Thumper. And indeed, efficient cardiac resuscitation can restore and sustain consciousness (see Consciousness during Cardiac Resuscitation).
Beekhuizen underwent an OBE during his resuscitation with the following properties and experiences.
Only about 25% of people experience an OBE during an NDE (see Page on OBE's). Furthermore about 7% of persons experience pain during OBE's (see Tiberi-1993 "Extrasomatic Emotions"). The cause of this is simply that the OBE is an illusion of disembodiment, so that any pain felt is a consequence of the inducing cause of the OBE.
After the successful resuscitation, followed by a week in the intensive care unit, this man recalled the observations made during his resuscitation. He recognized TG immediately from his appearance and/or his unique voice when TG walked inside his room. TG was the man who had removed his dentures! TG was the man who knew where to find his dentures! We read all these things in the transcript.
Now we come to a summary of what has been discussed and determined as medical explanation for the experience of Mr. B.
The only gap remaining in the medical explanation of this OBE/NDE is the question of the timing of the removal of the denture. The transcript reveals some reason to question whether the denture was removed before the Thumper was turned on, or after the Thumper was turned on. However, regardless of this question, one thing is certain, the moment Mr. B arrived at the resuscitation room, adequate resuscitative measures were applied. On arrival of a person in cardiac arrest, people do not stand back, scratch their heads, and start thinking about what they are going to do. Instead they leap upon the person like a pack of wolves and continue resuscitation. If this resuscitation was efficient enough, this would also have resulted in the return of sufficient consciousness so Mr. B would have been able to perceive his dentures being removed. After all, even efficient cardiac resuscitation by hand is sometimes efficient enough to restore consciousness (see: Bihari S, Rajajee V, (2008), Prolonged retention of awareness during cardiopulmonary resuscitation for asystolic cardiac arrest. Neurocritical Care, 9: 382-386.)
So what is left. All aspects of this story have a very adequate medical explanation. Aha, is a commonly heard reaction from the dualists, but a dualist explanation explains this experience just as adequately, and with a lot less complexity. Unfortunately for dualists, oxygen starvation as occurs during cardiac resuscitation also generates OBEs, feelings of transcendence, retention of the ability to hear, etc, etc (many, many human medical studies). So how can the dualist distinguish between an experience due to oxygen starvation in this case, and one which is a manifestation of the soul? It is impossible. This latter consideration renders the dualist position less tenable than that of the materialist.
Finally, the report of "denture man" provides us with unique insights in the genesis of the out-of-body-experience. This fact alone makes it a valuable experience well worth studying. Moreover, this story also gives a clear message - not everyone is unconscious during resuscitation due to a cardiac arrest. But despite the wonderful elements in this story, all elements and observations are explained by the workings of the human body during cardiac arrest and resuscitation. Yet this story is not only a "mere" biological phenomenon, it is also a wonderful demonstration of how the human consciousness may be present during even the most harsh and unlikely conditions.