Dreaming on the Way Out

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It’s not uncommon for people to have extraordinary dreams or visions in the final weeks of their lives. Accounts of pre-death visions span recorded history, but have been absent from the scientific literature. A recent study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine by Associate Professor James P. Donnelly, PhD, and colleagues found that end-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs) are an intrinsic and comforting part of the dying process.

Christopher W. Kerr, James P. Donnelly, Scott T. Wright, Sarah M. Kuszczak, Anne Banas, Pei C. Grant, Debra L. Luczkiewicz. End-of-Life Dreams and Visions: A Longitudinal Study of Hospice Patients’ Experiences. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 2014; 17 (3): 296 DOI: 10.1089/jpm.2013.0371

“These dreams and visions may improve quality of life and should be treated accordingly,” says Donnelly, associate professor of counseling and human services and director of measurement & statistics for the Institute of Autism Research at Canisius College.
The 66 patients in the study were receiving end-of-life care at the Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, NY. Donnelly and his colleagues (Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD; Pei Grant, PhD; and doctoral student Scott Wright) interviewed the patients daily about the content, frequency and comfort level of their ELDVs. This is the first study to interview patients about their ELDV experiences in the last weeks of life. Previous studies were limited to retrospective information from clinicians or family members.
The researchers found that “the most common dreams and visions were of deceased relatives or friends.” Dreams and visions about the deceased were “significantly more comforting” to patients than other kinds of ELDVs, and became more frequent as the person approached death.
“This study demonstrates that ELDVs are commonly experienced and characterized by a consistent pattern of realism and emotional significance,” Donnelly says.
The study noted that some medical professionals tend to discount pre-death dreams and visions. “If they are seen as delusions or hallucinations, they are treated as problems to be controlled,” according to Donnelly.
But there is an important distinction between ELDVs and delirium. The study concluded: “During a delirium state, the person has lost their connection to reality and ability to communicate rationally. Delirium is distressing and dangerous, and must be treated medically. In contrast, our study shows that ELDVs are typically comforting, realistic, and often very meaningful, highlighting a critical difference.”
Then again, the world around you is not much more than a reflection to your reaction to the world around you. And if you study quantum mechanics at all it will seriously bend your noodle.

15 thoughts on “Dreaming on the Way Out

  1. Lanza's paper 'did' upset the applecart didn't it… Now the questions are much more broad and the answers less clear…

  2. I have always assumed that those in their final days who reported seeing and hearing their already traversed relatives and dear friends were in fact seeing them. But then again I believe in a loving higher power and an afterlife. I am not, as atheists might believe, an easy and willing target for a sales pitch to buy the Brooklyn Bridge,

  3. Hmmmm… After seeing that Tube vid, I was struck by a memory of an intense Deja Vu experience I had as young boy in a small hill village just above Florence that I had never before visited in this iteration. The vision was so intense that I was disoriented for probably half an hour after the experience. Somehow I knew I had lived in that place before or perhaps I had died there. Later someone "educated" tried to explain to me that Deja Vus were the result of a combination of similar patterns and linear perceptions with juxtapositioning of light that create a false sense of having been in that place before when one plainly has not. The explanation never satisfied me. Lanza's seems to explain my experience much better.

  4. There has been so much in my life that affirms, so I'm not a denier. It's easier to be, but I can't.

  5. I’m often caught in delusions and believe everyone is an imposter. Maybe I’m diabetic.

    I agree with what you said: The world around you is not much more than a reflection to your reaction to the world around you. And if that is the case then your thoughts have a lot of power.

    Guess what I’m thinking…?

    You really aren’t trying hard enough. You’ve heard of tangible connections right?

    Quantum mechanics is both compelling and frustrating.

    The brain is an fascinating subject and I wish I had the ability to use more of mine in order to do exceptional and unbelievable things. Oh the fun I would have. Is it just a matter of belief? I can’t get my head around time not being linear for some reason. I wish I could break outside my boundaries of thinking. I’d take LSD if I wasn’t such a control freak.
    Maybe the brain just see's the dead relatives because it knows it's dying and it's a comfort to the soul. Like a pre med. Otherwise, why can't I see them whenever I want to?

  6. Quantum mechanics isn't a guess – but interpreting them correctly is. Your guess is every bit as valid as mine is.

  7. It might be worth trying a mass quantum frothing experiment. I propose that we should all concentrate our energies on tele-porting a certain community organizer on a permanent transition to a different quantum plain where he can do no further harm in this one. We could send along Hillary for company. Wouldn't be right to have him suffer loneliness.

  8. There may even be room to export an archbishop and his staff – and a number of lesser Anglican pederast-bishops into the Twilight Zone.

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