I have read many books on NDEs, including the excellent The Handbook of Near-death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation
. Consciousness Beyond Life is the best I have read to date. This is not only because of the rigorous scientific discussion it presents, with a full explanation of the prospective NDE study published in the Lancet in 2001, but also because it dares to explore a bigger and better scientific paradigm than the tired old materialist reductionist views we constantly hear in the media.
The description of the Pam Reynolds NDE story (in 1991) is the clearest I have read; van Lommel brings all the salient details of her brain operation together and demonstrates that Pam Reynold's experience could only have happened during the time when there was no circulation in her brain. (A precise record of the operation by Dr Spetzler and team was kept with the timings of each procedure, and Pam's NDE description is mapped to that.)
By taking seriously the reports of NDEs experienced by his patients and by people such as Pam Reynolds, van Lommel found he was compelled to look for new answers to the "problem" of consciousness in other areas of science. NDEs pose serious questions for health practitioners and challenge all of us to question the notion that consciousness is generated by the brain. This book provides a fascinating journey through centuries of scientific and cultural literature with a life-affirming hypothesis at its core: our consciousness cannot die, no matter what becomes of our bodies.
I was surprised by the sheer scope of the research presented - cardiology, physiology, neuroscience, genetics, medical ethics, philosophy, quantum mechanics, string theory - and all very clearly explained for the lay reader. Such care has been taken throughout to ground the concepts as they are developed and to summarise the arguments, with numbered references and a helpful glossary and bibliography. I'm especially grateful for the references to and quotations from many writers I have yet to discover, such as Frederik van Eeden, Henri Stapp, Dag Hammarskjoeld, and Marie de Hennezel. This is science writing for the public at its best.