Michael Sabom is a cardiologist, who founded the "Atlanta Study," which is the first comprehensive investigation of NDEs. He has also written Light and Death. He wrote in the Preface to this 1982 book, "In my own practice of cardiology ... I have conducted an extensive investigation into the experiences encountered by persons who have been very close to death... This book explores the nature and meaning of the near-death experience. My aim is not to repeat what has already been said on the subject... but to present fresh observations on the content of the experience, on the people who encounter it, and on the clinical setting in which it occurs... this study has led me to rethink some of my own basic beliefs concerning the nature of man, the process of dying, and the practice of medicine." (Pg. 12)
He is critical of Raymond Moody's book, Life After Life: "the cases... had been collected in a very casual, unsystematic manner. Many of the reports were from people who had approached Moody with their experiences following one of his presentations on the subject. There was no way of telling whether such testimonies were authentic or were merely fabricated replays... Did the experiences of all 150 people fit nicely into the patterns he described or were these basic patterns of the near-death experience based upon a selected minority of the overall group, which was unrepresentative of the experience in general?... And most of all, as a physician I wanted to know the medical details of the crisis events that purportedly had led to the near-death experiences. I was troubled by these exclusions from his book." (Pg. 17-18)
He observes, "In all, thirteen experiences were described to us ... by persons who had recovered from a major operation... three experiences were reported following surgical operations in which NO known complications had taken place. The content of these experiences was quite similar, however, to nonsurgically related NDEs... Many patients described the progress of their surgery as they 'saw' it from a point above their bodies. In these cases, comparisons could be made between the patient's account and the operative summary dictated by the attending surgeon... there were some amazing similarities." (Pg. 91-92)
He argues, "While (experiencers') assertion that they observed these details from a location removed from their physical bodies should be assessed, other, more traditional explanations for this phenomenon must first be ruled out. 1. Accurate portrayal of the near-death crisis event based solely on prior general knowledge... I mentioned the possibility that a person's general knowledge of CPR technique... may enable him 'blindly' to reconstruct the events following his cardiac arrest without having actually 'observed' them from an autoscopic location." (Pg. 157-158)
He concludes, "Does the NDE represent a glimpse of an afterlife, of life after death? As a physician and a scientist, I cannot... say for sure that the NDE is indicative of what is to come at the moment of FINAL bodily death. These experiences were encountered during waning moments of life. Those reporting these experiences were not brought back from the dead, but were rescued from a point very close to death. Thus, in the strictest sense, these experiences were encounters of NEAR-death, and not of death itself. Since I suspect that the NDE is a reflection of a mind-brain split, I cannot help but wonder why such an event should occur at the point of near-death." (Pg. 253)
This book is an excellent part of the "early" literature on near-death experiences.