Esquire Challenges Dr. Eben Alexander’s Credibility & Story (Updated)

Esquire Challenges Dr. Eben Alexander’s Credibility & Story (Updated)

Aug 28

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August 28, 2013

Alex Tsakiris of Skeptiko Interviews Robert Mays

EXCERPT:

Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris interviews Robert Mays about his recently published article, Esquire article on Eben Alexander distorts the facts. During the interview Mays talks about what his investigation discovered:

Alex Tsakiris: The Dittrich article in Esquire, it’s extremely well-crafted. Let’s give them that. And he builds this case with the facts that he has, but he really builds this whole thing around — this guy’s a liar. He approaches it from a number of different angles, some of which are really substantive to the story like the coma thing, and these other things that he picks at, but they do kind of stick in your mind as you’re reading the article. Like the rainbow thing. Tell us what the rainbow thing is all about and then tell us what you found out.

Robert Mays: In the book, on Sunday morning according to the story that Dr. Alexander wrote, his sister, Phyllis, and his mother, Betty, were coming into the hospital and saw a perfect rainbow. They felt this was a sign. Dittrich took this as saying Heaven itself was heralding Eben Alexander’s return. Dittrich then asked the meteorologist whether there could have been a rainbow then and the meteorologist said, “Well, the day was clear so there couldn’t have been.”

I said, “Well, wait a minute. Two people said they saw it.” So I called Phyllis Alexander and she said, “Definitely we saw a rainbow. Betty remarked that it was a perfect rainbow.” They talked about it. Then they went immediately up to Eben’s room and there Eben was, sitting up. So that was the time that he had recovered.

Alex Tsakiris: And just to add a little tidbit that you talk about in your article that I thought was great and is the real kind of journalism that we would have liked to have gotten from Esquire is that you not only talked to these eyewitnesses, which he did not–he just went on some meteorological report–but they also had evidence. It was such a spectacular event that they had written an email.

Robert Mays: Right. That day Phyllis said she had written to friends in Boston who were praying for Eben. She said, “Eben has recovered and I saw a beautiful rainbow as I was coming into the hospital.” So there’s that documentation, as well. So Luke Dittrich’s argument there is empty.

Alex Tsakiris: It’s shoddy journalism. If you’re trying to debunk something, which I’ve run across so many times, that’s one thing. You’re a debunker. You’re just out there throwing whatever you can against the wall and seeing what sticks. But if you’re Esquire, who still has some kind of legitimacy as a journalistic enterprise, you have to do more than this. You have to talk to witnesses. You have to get their side of it. I think this lays a pattern for what else we’re about to talk about.

(later)

Alex Tsakiris: Here’s what you get from Luke Dittrich’s story in Esquire — Dr. Laura Potter discredits Dr. Eben Alexander’s story. It couldn’t have happened the way he described. He wasn’t really in a coma. He was delirious.

So why don’t you pick up from there, Robert? You’ve said you put a couple calls in to Dr. Potter at this point in the story. You haven’t heard back. What happens next?

Robert Mays: I received, from members of the family copies of emails that they had been sending back and forth. In that was a statement that Dr. Potter had made. Later I learned it was a statement that she had issued to a news organization. Apparently that news organization did not use it. In any case, that statement was that she was misquoted and taken out of context. So I said, “Whoa. This is really quite strange.”

Alex Tsakiris: In fact, she stated that her account was misrepresented, and that she felt like the questions weren’t fair. And this is backed up by what you heard from the family, right? Because the family talks to Dr. Potter and she’s apologizing, saying “Gosh, I don’t know how this happened.” That’s what I took away from your article. Is that what you got from talking to the family?

Robert Mays: Right. And basically Dr. Potter expressed to the family that she had been misrepresented and that her words were taken out of context by Luke Dittrich and that he had led her to say certain things.

The question that Luke Dittrich says he posed to her I don’t think is a question he actually posed to her when she said, “Yes, conscious but delirious.” It would be very interesting to see what exactly happened in that interview and just understand what she was responding to.

Alex Tsakiris: I think it would be more than interesting. I think it’s absolutely his responsibility, given the damage that this article has done and sought to do from the beginning. There’s an added level of journalistic responsibility to get your facts right. These things being called into question this way demands that he really back up his claims.

Read and/or listen to the complete interview here.

To download an MP3 copy of the interview, click here (MP3).

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August 18, 2013 Update

CONCERNING THE ESQUIRE ARTICLE ABOUT EBEN ALEXANDER III, M.D.
By PMH Atwater

Original Link

“The book Proof of Heaven honestly and effectively portrays the near-death experience of Eben Alexander III, M.D. His case has been mentioned several times in this newsletter. I was one of the near-death researchers he turned to, and I have interviewed him at length. I can personally verify that what happened to him, although unique in its medical components, was typical of such experiences — what it consisted of and how he responded to it – including the pattern of aftereffects which he now displays. I have no hesitation, then or now, in presenting Dr. Alexander as an honest, loving, and caring individual, who has done his best to share the elements of his close brush with death, how medically “at the edge” he was, the near-death episode that filled and expanded his world, his recovery, and the reason he feels he survived. . . to share the message of an afterlife with others around the world. His sense of mission is strong. Like so many of us, though, he crossed paths with a staff writer for a magazine who misquoted him and failed to thoroughly check out what appeared to be facts. The result was a magazine article printed in Esquire Magazine that defamed him in ways that have been difficult at first to counter. Clearly, there seems to be a case of fraud here, or at least of an author who did not do all the fact-checking that could and should have been done. If you are interested in the truth in this matter and how the Esquire author “goofed,” please access this link for a complete and accurate accounting of the real facts.”

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August 14, 2013 Update

NDE Researcher Robert Mays examines some of the facts surrounding the article that Luke Dittrich wrote for Esquire about Dr. Eben Alexander.

To read the complete article, click here or here (pdf).

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EXCERPTS:

…if Dittrich had interviewed Phyllis, she would have told him:she and her mother saw a rainbow as they were entering the hospital about 1 PM. It was to the right of the entrance (north of the hospital) where there are mountains. They commented on the rainbow and Betty noted, “It’s a perfect rainbow!” When they turned the corner into Eben’s ICU room a few moments later, Eben was sitting up in bed.

Later that day, Phyllis emailed friends back in Boston, telling them about Eben’s miraculous recovery — and about the rainbow she and her mother had witnessed. She offered to show me the email.

…if Dittrich had asked her, Holley would have confirmed the story: indeed, at some time in the ER Eben had shouted out “God, help me!” and everyone present including Holley and Michael Sullivan had rushed to his side — Holley had been just outside the curtain — but Alexander fell back unresponsive. Those present were given hope that he was recovering, but those hopes faded quickly.

I spoke with Holley Alexander recently. She said that this incident occurred about an hour or so after she had arrived in the ER with Eben. “It happened before they sedated him, while the doctors were trying to get vital signs and spinal fluid and all that. I said to Michael [Sullivan], ‘He spoke!’ and Eben kept writhing. Dr. Potter might not have heard it. She was in and out, checking scans, spinal fluid, so it’s very likely that she wasn’t there.

And yes, this happened before Alexander was intubated, so Eben Alexander’s only embellishment was to fudge the timing of the incident, for dramatic effect — a trivial adjustment.

Dittrich did not recheck with Dr. Potter and did not show her how he was quoting her. Had he done so, he would have gotten a surprise.

Sylvia White reported that Dr. Laura Potter became concerned after she was contacted by the press when the Esquire article first appeared, and subsequently expressed her alarm about the way her remarks were being twisted. Dr. Potter made the following statement in an email:

“I am saddened by and gravely disappointed by the article recently published in Esquire. The content attributed to me is both out of context and does not accurately portray the events around Dr. Eben Alexander’s hospitalization. I felt my side of the story was misrepresented by the reporter. I believe Dr. Alexander has made every attempt to be factual in his accounting of events.” — Dr. Laura Potter

So Luke Dittrich’s portrayal of the events regarding Alexander’s illness is inaccurate. Dittrich took Dr. Potter’s statements out of context, twisted them and misrepresented them.

Now we see that all three key flaws in Eben Alexander’s story have turned out to be totally false or trivial. And Luke Dittrich is relying especially on this last one to build a case that Alexander’s story is a complete fabrication, and his heavenly experience a hallucination or a fantasy.

All it would have taken was a simple conversation with two or three of the people identified in Proof of Heaven as witnesses — who were available to be interviewed — to corroborate or definitively refute Alexander’s account. In this last case, Dittrich’s argument rested solely on the assessment of Dr. Laura Potter. Yet had he asked her, Dr. Potter would have confirmed the accuracy of Alexander’s story. Likewise Holley, Michael Sullivan, Phyllis Alexander and Sylvia White would have confirmed the accuracy of the story in Proof of Heaven.

To Esquire’s Editor in Chief David Granger, Luke Dittrich’s story is great journalism. To me the Dittrich article is shoddy and irresponsible journalism — shoddy because of Luke Dittrich’s and his Esquire editors’ evident failures: failure to consider alternate explanations (rainbow), failure to check with the cited witnesses (Phyllis and Betty Alexander), failure to verify information with additional witnesses (Holley Alexander, Michael Sullivan and others), failure to check with medical experts (on the likely cause of coma), failure to check again on crucial testimony of the sole cited witness (Laura Potter), failure to read the book carefully (Dr. Wade’s statement about Alexander’s coma), failure to verify conclusions via other witnesses (Holley Alexander and Sylvia White), failure to exercise care in asserting erroneous facts (use of drugs was not mentioned in the book), failure to exercise care in quoting and interpreting recorded remarks (Dalai Lama), and failure to exercise common sense in interpreting the meaning of statements (Dalai Lama).

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July 8, 2013 Update

This page originally included most of Esquire’s article. A letter from Debra S. Weaver, a lawyer representing Esquire magazine, asked us to remove this information (see below). If you would like to read the complete article (and pay Esquire 1.99 to do so), go here. You can find a comprehensive overview here. I will also publish links to other places you can read all or portions of Esquire’s article after this letter.

Notice of Copyright Infringement

I am writing on behalf of Esquire magazine, a publication of Hearst Communications, Inc. It has been brought to my attention that your website is posting large portions of an article that was published in the August 2013 issue of Esquire authored by Luke Dittrich entitled The Prophet. The article appears on your site at nhne-puls.org/esquire-challenges-dr-eben-alexanders-credibility-story/. This use was never authorized by Esquire or Mr. Dittrich and we therefore demand that you immediately remove the posting.

The material that appears in the Esquire magazine and website, including Mr.Dittrich’s article, is copyrighted. That article was licensed by Mr. Dittrich exclusively to Esquire. Your use of the material without permission therefore constitutes an infringement. The fact that you may not have published the totality of the article does not change the infringing nature of your posting, because the substantial portions that you have published go far beyond any amount that could be considered protected fair use. We trust that you may have been unaware of the infringing nature of your use, and that now that we have brought these concerns to your attention, you will immediately cease and desist as requested.

Therefore, I expect your immediate response to this email confirming that you have deleted Mr. Dittrich’s  article from your website, and confirming that you will make no unauthorized postings of material from Esquire magazine. Your failure to comply with this demand will cause Esquire to consider pursuit of all available legal options. This letter is written without prejudice to the rights of Hearst Communications, Inc. and Esquire, all of which are expressly reserved.

Debra S. Weaver, Esq.
Senior Counsel
Hearst Communications, Inc.
300 West 57th Street
New York, NY  10019

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Places You Can Read All Or Portions Of Esquire’s Article

If you know of any additional links, please send them in. Thanks!

The Prophet
By Luke Dittrich
Esquire
July 2, 2013

A Teachable Moment: Esquire Versus Dr. Eben Alexander
By David Sunfellow
July 12, 2013

Esquire Exposé on Proof of Heaven Author Eben Alexander
Daily Grail
July 4, 2013

The ‘Proof of Heaven’ Author Has Now Been Thoroughly Debunked by Science
Associated Press
July 2, 2013

Esquire’s Flimsy Wall
jasondemeuse.com
July 2, 2013

Esquire’s Micropayment Experiment
By Josh Sternberg
digiday.com
July 8, 2013

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July 8, 2013 Update

Several networks are hosting lively discussions about the controversy that has erupted around Dr. Eben Alexander. Here are three: NHNE’s NDE Network, The Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) Network, and Skeptiko. You can also find pertinent comments on Eben Alexander’s Facebook Page and NHNE’s NDE Facebook Page.

Here’s a related comment that I (David Sunfellow) posted on NHNE’s NDE Network:

“Wholesale fraud in Eben’s case seems very unlikely to me. I also agree that we must exercise conscious, careful, caring discernment.

“I’ll go a step further, however, and say that we all — every single one of us — have areas in our lives where shadow issues are running amuck. The way we view and react to people and situations on the outside, is usually an accurate gauge for how we are treating ourselves on the inside. As within, so without. Are we really, deeply looking at our own issues — the places within ourselves where we lie, cut corners, exaggerate, refuse to see the truth, avoid admitting mistakes? Do we also bristle, boil, and attack others for daring to notice the undone areas in ourselves? Or are we able to remain calm and even-handed? Do we make healing, and an honest search for the truth, more important than saving face and getting our feathers ruffled?

“Treating myself — and others — with deep love and respect, while at the same time, holding both accountable, is an extremely tall order in this world. We prefer — deeply prefer — to swing one way or another: ignore all the developmental/dark side business, or jump in shoot everything up.

“Which reminds me of one of the most important insights I think NDEs have to offer us. They offer us a breathtaking example of how to live healthy, balanced lives. On the one hand, they use life reviews to call every single transgression to mind. None of us gets away with anything. And on the other hand, we are absolutely, wholeheartedly and unconditionally loved. We are not condemned for our shortcomings, but encouraged to become ever more full blown, crystal clear embodiments of the divine. That, I think, is the proper attitude.

“Again, this is a profoundly difficult posture to maintain in this world: to treat ourselves and one another with the same kind of discerning eye and loving heart that we are treated with on the other side. But that, I think, is what we need to strive for.

“Back to Eben. The question I’m asking myself right now is this: Am I treating Eben, Luke Dittrich, Esquire, and everyone else involved in this situation like we are treated on the other side — in a loving, clear seeing, constructive way? Or am I swinging to extremes? As within, so without…”

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July 5, 2013 Update

The Dalai Lama and Dr. Eben Alexander participated in a symposium entitled “Life and After Life” that took place at Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon, USA on May 10, 2013. This is the gathering that reporter Luke Dittrich referred to in the article below. The pertinent comments begin around 0:46:05 in this video. Dittrich’s comment about this event appears at the end of his article.

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July 2, 2013 Update

Alexander has issued a statement to NBC News in response to the Esquire article:

Original Link

“I stand by every word in this book and have made its message the purpose of my life,’’ he said. “Esquire’s cynical article distorts the facts of my 25-year career as a neurosurgeon and is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.”

Statement from Alexander via a Simon & Schuster spokesman:

Original Link

“I wrote a truthful account of my experiences in PROOF OF HEAVEN and have acknowledged in the book both my professional and personal accomplishments and my setbacks. I stand by every word in this book and have made its message the purpose of my life. Esquire’s cynical article distorts the facts of my 25-year career as a neurosurgeon and is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.”

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Esquire has published a must-read article about Dr. Eben Alexander, his near-death experience, and best-selling book, “Proof of Heaven.” Among other things, the article describes a series of malpractice lawsuits from Dr. Alexander’s past (including one where he falsified medical records), and a long string of inconsistencies in Alexander’s story…

THE PROPHET
By Luke Dittrich
Esquire
July 2, 2013

Before “Proof of Heaven” made Dr. Eben Alexander rich and famous as a “man of science” who’d experienced the afterlife, he was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.

Read the complete article here.

To learn more about Dr. Eben Alexander and his near-death experience, go here.

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RELATED NDE LINKS:

• A Teachable Moment: Esquire Versus Dr. Eben Alexander

• How Near-Death Experiences Are Changing The World
• The Formula for Creating Heaven on Earth
• Quick List of Prominent NDErs
• NDE Stories
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive One
• NHNE’s Collection of NDE Testimonials – Archive Two
• NDEs NOT Caused by Malfunctioning Brains
• NDE Take-Aways
• Pulse on NDEs
• NHNE NDE
• NHNE NDE Social Network
• NHNE NDE on Facebook
• NHNE NDE on Google+

• NHNE NDE Bookstore

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10 comments

  1. Bob Manrodt

    Wow, fascinating article. I read most of Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven but didn’t finish it. Why? I was attracted to Dr. Alexander’s stories of his personal experience but somehow felt that parts of it were a bit too, I don’t know, “pushy”. Dr. Alexander presented his version of heaven and some of the ancillary themes as scientific givens.
    As a near-death survivor myself, my experience has been similar to what Dr. Alexander describes, but in ways different. The differences between our experiences or what we take away from it as the truth does not invalidate Dr. Alexander’s experience or my own.

    As a student of Tibetan Buddhism who consider’s HH Dalai Lama as one of my teachers I was very pleased to see the piece at the end of the article about his holiness had to say when meeting with Dr. Alexander. His experience His holiness talks about three categories of phenomena and describes the third category of phenomena as “extremely hidden phenomena”.

    Yes, Dr. Alexander’s experience was real for him, but not necessarily real for everyone. I would argue that the near-death experience is true and authentic as they describe for the experiencers themselves but not necessarily the way it is for everyone.

  2. Joseph Dillard

    The way I read this article it makes three points: Because Alexander had malpractice suits brought against him that somehow casts doubt on him and his story. Many doctors have malpractice claims brought against them; even if he had his license revoked, which he did not, how would that have any bearing on his story? The author points to stuff Alexander said that is either contradicted or not collaborated, but which has very little bearing on the real issue: how credible is Alexander’s account based on its parallels with the enormous and growing database of NDEs? To the best of my knowledge, it’s mainstream. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong. The third is a perspective to be assumed, given the source of the article: that Alexander is in it for the money. Maybe he is. So what? What’s the big deal? What does that have to do with anything? I think this is an excellent example of how an author inevitably projects their biases into their story. In this case, we have a skeptical and cynical author. That fact needs to be taken into account.

    • I’m totally with you on this Joseph. I left two comments on NHNE NDEs saying the same thing. I don’t care about Eben’s history as much as I care about what his family says — and they say that he has definitely gone through a transformational experience. So he’s not a saint. I’m not so proud of some of the things I did before my NDE — I was just struggling to survive in a hard world — but after — I changed and so has Eben.
      And, having been in the media for quite a while in the late 80s and early 90s, I can report that they lie to make a story juicer. They said some things about me and my NDE that really hurt. I still write books but won’t put myself out there anymore. Besides the media, there are fundamentalists that want to project their stuff on to others. Just read the comments on the YouTube interview I did with Present! Some of them are awful! Telling me I’m going to go to Hell because I won’t join their particular “brand name” religion.
      When we follow our experiences by putting ourselves out there in the public arena, we step into other peoples anger and nastiness.

    • liquid infinitude

      A fine and thoughtful comment, Joseph. There is a flaw in human judgement that can occur when finding out that someone else is lying. The flaw is a tendency to discount everything else the liar is saying, lock stock and barrel. Such impulsive blanket judgments can result in some very sad losses for all of us, such as when Eliot Spitzer, the former governor and attorney general of the State of New York, was caught with his pants down frequenting prostitutes. This effectively ended his career (at least for the time being). What a waste! Eliot was one of the few who was busting the bad guys on Wall Street. Now, because he was caught lying about going to prostitutes, and there was a righteous overreaction, we are left without one of our nation’s most valuable assets in our war against big money financial crooks. This is because of the human tendency to give way to much weight to isolated instances of lying. Re: Eben Alexander fudging medical records to cover his ass: Big deal. It’s not right, but it sure isn’t uncommon. (I’m a nurse, and I’ve seen this fudging. Docs make mistakes. And, cops fudge records. so do truckers. Etc.) Who hasn’t at some point lied to protect their precious behinds? This is a human thing to do. This doesn’t detract from the validity of Eben’s NDE. To give one more example, John Lennon said in interviews that the Beatles sometimes “borrowed” from other music heavily, fixed it up, and released it. The “Benefit of Mr. Kite” lyrics were taken from an old circus poster. In that vein, many big-name writers have been busted plagiarizing (Maureen Dowd of the NY Times is but one of many examples). Do we ignore what Maureen has to say? No. Do we enjoy the Beatles’ music any less? No. Eben is a good man on balance, with much of great value to offer. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let us, instead, control the kneejerk tendency to socially burn at the stake public figures caught lying, and instead see things clearly and accurately.

  3. Esquire gives the false impression that medical malpractice lawsuits are somehow unusual for physicians to receive. Esquire assumes that because Dr. Alexander has had medical malpractice lawsuits against them that this somehow proves he is incompetent as a physician and that this somehow has anything to do with his NDE testimony. But according to this Wikipedia article on medical malpractice, a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 75% of physicians in “low-risk” specialties and virtually 100% of physicians in “high-risk” specialties could expect to face a malpractice claim during their careers. These statistics do not reveal a systemic medical malpractice problem with our health care system; but rather they reveal a major problem with legal system requiring the need for medical tort reform. Proponents of medical liability tort reform argue that medical malpractice lawsuits restrict patient access to health care by driving physicians out of business or encouraging them to limit high-risk procedures. For example, the article cites 1 in 12 obstetricians who have reported changes in their practice as a result of the risk or fear of professional liability claims have stopped delivering babies. So Esquire’s impression that Dr. Alexander is less than truthful because of the several medical lawsuits doesn’t hold water.

    Esquire also gives the false impression that because Dr. Alexander’s coma was induced by physicians instead of brought on by the deadly meningitis that this has any relevance to his NDE testimony. A coma is a coma and, according to Dr. Peter Fenwick, as in all states of unconsciousness the brain cannot produce images. And even if an unconscious brain could produce images, the unconscious condition means the brain would not be able to remember them. This is what makes Dr. Alexander’s NDE testimony so remarkable. As with all NDEs, the unusual and paranormal factors surrounding them is the fact that people have these super-lucid experiences and are able to remember them despite the unconscious state of the brain.

    Esquire also gives the false impression that because Dr. Alexander is reaping financial benefits from his book and lectures he somehow has sinister motives. Yet, Esquire is actually requiring people to pay to read this “hit-piece” article they wrote about Dr. Alexander. It makes you wonder who is the one with sinister motives.

    Esquire also gives the impression that Dr. Alexander is less than truthful with his book and NDE testimony. But the only thing Esquire has done is build a straw man based upon these false impressions of Dr. Alexander.

    One important lesson I learned from my college debate class is that when your opponents have to resort to personal attacks, it is because they have run out of arguments and lost the debate. So far, all the skeptical arguments I have read concerning Dr. Alexander are based upon personal attacks, false assumptions, innuendo, disinformation and flat out hostility to all NDE testimony of an afterlife.

    Kevin Williams
    http://www.near-death.com

  4. Kevin and Joseph, it sounds like the two of you read a different Esquire article than I did.

    Concerning malpractice, the points I took away were NOT that Eben was guilty of malpractice, but that he was found guilty SEVERAL TIMES (“only one other Virginia-licensed neurosurgeon has settled as many cases in that time period, and none have settled more”). More important to me was that in one case, Eben not only failed to notify a patient that he had operated on the wrong part of their body but falsified the patient’s medical records. I think this is very important — and very relevant information, especially if a person writes a book that presents the author as a famous and well-respected neurosurgeon, but fails to mention that their career also includes some significant controversies and ethical breaches.

    Concerning his coma, one of the central claims that Eben makes — and he makes it as an expert, practicing neurosurgeon who understands how the brain works — is that his cerebral cortex was completely incapacitated by the viral infection. If this is true, how is it possible for him to regain consciousness when his attending physician cuts back on medications that have been used to induce a coma? Unlike Eben, I’m not an expert on this subject. But it seems to me that this is information that should have been included in the book. Suggesting that the viral infection he contracted was so deadly that it put him into a coma, and not mentioning that his cerebral cortex could spring back online if the coma-inducing medication was cut back seems an important fact to leave out of the story to me.

    Concerning his book, we don’t yet know how many editorial decisions were made on the basis of making money. What we do know is that some decisions were made to package the book in a way that would appeal to more people. Some sources, like PMH Atwater, also suggest that the content of the book was changed to make Eben’s story more dramatic. What I would like to know is why didn’t Eben insist on complete accuracy? Or, if he was unable to do so because he signed the rights away, why not say so publicly? Or, if he signed the rights away, including the right to comment on any changes the publishers made, why would he agree to such terms if sharing his story, versus making money, was his primary concern? I would also like to know what portions of Eben’s story were altered by his publishers?

    In response to the Esquire article, Eben told NBC News that he stood by “every word” in his book. Then he went on to say that Esquire’s cynical article “is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.” As one NHNE reader pointed out on Facebook, Eben is obviously guilty of doing exactly what he accuses Esquire of doing: he also has made unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth.

    I’ll make another important observation here. In all the years I have worked with discovering the truth about certain people and incidents, there is one pattern I have seen repeat again and again and again. And that’s this: when people who have played fast and loose with facts are confronted with their discrepancies, they tend to choose one of two courses of action. They either flatly and emphatically deny any wrong doing; or they step into the situation and sincerely strive to sort things out and set the record straight. Things do not usually turn out well for those who flatly and emphatically deny everything.

    There were several things about the Esquire article that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the over-the-top beginning. I didn’t like the dramatic, chop-cut transitions between Eben’s NDE and the main issues the article raised. And I didn’t like the skeptical tone when it comes to NDEs.

    What I did like was that the article raised legitimate questions. I also appreciated that Esquire did not resort to vague, unsubstantiated accusations. Instead, they addressed issues point by point and did their home work. I don’t know whether they got everything right. But they did provide enough concrete details that others could follow up if they wanted to.

    What surprises me in all of this is how people are tending to swing wildly one way, or another. Folks are either saying that the Esquire article was a hatchet job that attacked poor Eben with the same kind of wild-eyed, close-minded, axe-to-grind gusto that skeptics like Michael Shermer often use. Or Eben is a complete fraud who made everything up. Where’s the middle ground? Where’s the attempt to be a little more sophisticated with how we handle situations like this? Is it possible that Eben had a near-death experience and, at the same time, also engaged in some of the behaviors that he has been guilty of in the past? That’s where I think the truth lies. Not on either side of the debate, but in the middle. From where I’m sitting, Eben is not a saint, or the devil incarnate. It does, however, look to me like Eben’s shadow issues have played a significant role in this situation. Granted, he almost certainly would have been attacked by all kinds of skeptics no matter what he did. But if his shadow issues are engaged as much as I think they are, then he brought a time bomb to the dance floor.

    While the jury is out as to how this story will unfold, I will offer a prediction. Based on my reading of Eben’s book, which struck me as far to clean, neat, and perfect to be an unvarnished, purely honest account, we’re going to see more fire works before this episode recedes into the background.

    That said, I, for one, will be keeping Eben and his family in my prayers. My heartfelt desire is for this situation to unfold in the best way possible for all concerned. It’s tough being in this world and all of us need as much compassion, understanding, and practical, level-headed, boots-on-the-ground help as we can get.

  5. Hey Barbara.

    I think everyone on the planet owes you and the other NDErs who came out with their stories first a huge, massive debt. As challenging as things can be for people today sharing their NDEs, the climate is far different today than it was it in good old days. You were part of the first wave of people who broke new ground, who paved the way for others, and who now carry the scars to prove it. I’m grateful.

    Now let me ask you a couple questions.

    First, let me acknowledge that the world is, indeed, full of mean, nasty, projective people. You probably know that I have many NDE videos posted on NHNE’s NDE YouTube channel. I regularly receive tons of terrible comments. Not surprisingly, fundamentalist Christians generate most of these comments, followed next by fundamentalist atheists. I used to be annoyed, but have learned to be calm and hit the delete button. What I want to ask you about is shadow issues. Have you noticed that the more you deal with your own personal shadow issues, the less others attack you, and/or the less reactive you are about these attacks? What’s your take on this? Do you see any connection? Do things get easier for us if we are able to see and own our own blindspots and imperfections? What has your experience taught you about this?

    The second question I have for you is have you considered contacting Eben and talking with him about the current firestorm, including what you have learned over the years about dealing with the media? I think it would be great if seasoned, old school NDErs like yourself who have been roughed up by the media over the years could lend a hand. I don’t know what Eben needs, or what kind of support group he has, but he might really benefit from comparing notes with people like you who have gone before him…

  6. David, I’m rereading your comments to me and I know I answered them somewhere else on NHNE before but I want to address them again.
    My sense is that everyone gets the NDE they need. And of course, my working in individual and group psychotherapy, we are always addressing shadow issues:
    I wish that each one of us would willingly dig into some interpretations that may be uncomfortable at first, but that will free us of our shadow issues.
    When I was held in my life review by this incredible intelligent Energy that we may call God, I was shown EVERYTHING in a crystal clear way. I learned after to face my fears and metabolize what I saw. And over the years these issues have resurfaced and I worked on them in a deeper way.
    Here’s a great example from a dear NDEr in our support group back at the University of Connecticut. He had his NDE in battle in Vietnam. At the end of the NDE, his grandfather stepped in and told him he could not stay — that he must go back. He grieved this for many many months in our group. Finally it hit him (after processing many times that in his life review he saw himself as a young boy take money out of his grandfather’s pants when his grandfather was sleeping.) Finally, with movie cameras rolling from a German documentary group — he realized that his grandfather sent him back because — he loved him! He became much “lighter” after this and I’m sure the German people got something out of it too.

    So NDEs are not the final healing. They are the beginning. Many times when I read or hear an NDE, I realize that there are many gifts in it if the NDEr would only open to their fear and fearlessly walk through the process that our Vietnam vet did.

    Number 2, I may have said it before and I’ll say it again:
    Simon and Schuster carry a heavy hand when it comes to us authors. They tried several times to put words into my mouth that didn’t belong. And they penalized me financially for not conforming. They even threatened to drop the book after I had worked a year on it. I was lucky to have Bruce Greyson and Ken Ring advising me the whole time so of course, I wouldn’t let S&S get away with it. These two wonderful men helped me stick to my values. Perhaps Eben was not as lucky as me.

    Thanks David, for asking.

  7. Beautiful comment, Barbara. Yes, I completely agree with you: We all seem to come here, to this world (or be sent) out of love. This is where the real pearls are; the real gifts. And it is by embracing this reality, rather than trying to get out and return “Home” that new, delightfully wondrous vistas open up to us.

    I also think your comments about mainstream publishers are important. In some ways, this is a good analogy for everything about this world that temps us to compromise and fall short of doing and being what we are capable of. The whole system — not just publishers, but the social, political, medical, scientific, economic, religious, you name it components of our culture — are all designed to test, challenge, and purify us. Who will we serve? God or Mammon? Truth or lies? Love or fear? Can we hold ground for the deeper truths of life, or will we buckle under pressure? Every day, it seems, we are tested, and every time we choose a closer walk with Reality, our souls (and perhaps the rest of life) celebrate. I’m really glad to hear that Bruce and Ken helped you hold ground. That’s really wonderful. I am full of admiration for everyone who makes the hard, heroic choices — and helps others do the same. One choice at a time is how this world seems to move closer to heaven.

  8. Thank you so much David for your wonderful heart and intellect that helps me to feel supported!
    I look back on the flurry of manic energy that surrounded us when we did start coming out and I think of Eben with great empathy and compassion. He’s in the middle of it now. First, the huge pressure of coming back after such a profound swing in his perceptions of reality. And then writing the book with all of the accompanying realizations as it comes through. He’s an intelligent man and I’m sure many “shadow” issues came up. Then we — and now him being thrown to the media like the Christians were thrown to the Lions! That may be a little overstated but perhaps I could bring it down to being blindfolded on a huge roller coaster. I hope and pray that his family can hold steady. I had my two teenage sons living with me and Bruce and Ken. Looking back, I really needed their support.
    Now I can laugh– besides Larry King with “Was she out of her body or out of her mind!” My worst reaction was to an article in a glitzy magazine that called me plump! But at least they said my hair was luxurious! So superficial! And even worse was how the media always set me up with debunkers — from magicians (HUH!) to Professors and chiefs of psychiatry at prestigious medical schools were so numb they couldn’t feel.
    Eben has a role to play in the raising of consciousness just as we all are playing a role. My prayers are with him!

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