Eben Alexander (author)

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Eben Alexander III
BornDecember 11, 1953 (1953-12-11) (age 60)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationWriter, neurosurgeon
Website
www.lifebeyonddeath.net
 
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This article is about the neurosurgeon and author. For his great-grandfather, see Eben Alexander.
Eben Alexander III
BornDecember 11, 1953 (1953-12-11) (age 60)
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationWriter, neurosurgeon
Website
www.lifebeyonddeath.net

Eben Alexander III (born December 11, 1953) is an American neurosurgeon and the author of the best-selling Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, in which he describes his 2008 near-death experience and asserts that science can and will determine that heaven really does exist.

Early life, family, and education[edit]

Alexander is the descendant of a family of scholars, jurists, and physicians that spans several generations. His great grandfather Eben Alexander(1851-1910) was a diplomat; his grandfather a surgeon; and his father, Eben Alexander Jr., a professor of neurosurgery at Winston-Salem, N.C., and a former editor of Surgical Neurology, a neurosurgical journal.[1]

Alexander himself attended Phillips Exeter Academy (class of 1972), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (A.B., 1975), and the Duke University School of Medicine (M.D., 1980).

Alexander was an Intern in General Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, a resident at Duke, Newcastle (U.K.) General Hospital. He was a resident and research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital[2] and Massachusetts General Hospital and is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American College of Surgeons (F.A.C.S.).

Career[edit]

Academic and clinical appointments[edit]

Alexander has taught at Duke University Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the University of Virginia Medical School.

He has had hospital appointments at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and Lynchburg (Virginia) General Hospital-CentraHealth. He currently has been without surgical privileges since 2007.[3]

Professional activities[edit]

Alexander is a member of the American Medical Association and various other professional societies. He has been on the editorial boards of various journals.

Proof of Heaven[edit]

Content[edit]

Alexander is the author of the 2012 autobiographical book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, in which he asserts that his out of body and near death experience (NDE) while in a meningitis-induced coma in 2008 proves that consciousness is independent of the brain, that death is a transition, and that an eternity of perfect splendor awaits us beyond the grave – complete with angels, clouds, and departed relatives, but also including butterflies and a beautiful girl in peasant dress who Alexander finds out later was his departed sister.[4][5] He further asserts that the current understanding of the mind

"now lies broken at our feet "— for "What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large."

Alexander's book was excerpted in a Newsweek magazine cover story in October 2012.[6] (In May 2012, Alexander had provided a slightly more technical account of the events described in his book in an article, "My Experience in Coma", in AANS Neurosurgeon, the trade publication of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.)[7] Since the release of the book, he has lectured around the world in churches, hospitals, symposiums, besides appearing the TV shows, like Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey.[8][9]

As of July 3, 2013, Proof of Heaven has been on the The New York Times Best Seller list for 35 weeks.[10]

Criticism and reaction[edit]

In a wide-ranging investigation of Alexander's story and medical background, Esquire magazine reported (August 2013 issue) that prior to the publication of Proof of Heaven, Alexander had been terminated or suspended from multiple hospital positions, and had been the subject of several malpractice lawsuits, including at least two involving the alteration of medical records to cover up a medical error.[11][12] The magazine also found what it claimed were discrepancies with regard to Alexander's version of events in the book. Among the discrepancies, according to an account of the Esquire article in Forbes, was that "Alexander writes that he slipped into the coma as a result of severe bacterial meningitis and had no higher brain activity, while a doctor who cared for him says the coma was medically induced and the patient was conscious, though hallucinating."[12][11][13]

Alexander issued a statement after the Esquire article's publication: "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."[13]

Alexander's book has been criticized by scientists, including neuroscientist Sam Harris, a leader of the New_Atheism movement, who described Alexander's NDE account (chronicled in Newsweek, October 2012) as "alarmingly unscientific," and that "everything – absolutely everything – in Alexander's account rests on repeated assertions that his visions of heaven occurred while his cerebral cortex was 'shut down,' 'inactivated,' 'completely shut down,' 'totally offline,' and 'stunned to complete inactivity.' The evidence he provides for this claim is not only inadequate – it suggests that he doesn't know anything about the relevant brain science."[14] "Even in cases where the brain is alleged to have shut down, its activity must return if the subject is to survive and describe the experience. In such cases, there is generally no way to establish that the NDE occurred while the brain was offline."[15] Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks agreed with Harris, saying that "to deny the possibility of any natural explanation for an NDE, as Dr. Alexander does, is more than unscientific – it is antiscientific."..."The one most plausible hypothesis in Dr. Alexander's case...is that his NDE occurred not during his coma, but as he was surfacing from the coma and his cortex was returning to full function. It is curious that he does not allow this obvious and natural explanation, but instead insists on a supernatural one."[16]

In November 2012, Alexander responded to critics in a second Newsweek article:

Critics have maintained that my near-death experience, like similar experiences others before me have claimed, was a brain-based delusion cobbled together by my synapses only after they had somehow recovered from the blistering weeklong attack. [...] I also experienced that transitional period, when my mind began to regain consciousness: I remember a vivid paranoid nightmare in which my wife and doctors were trying to kill me, and I was only saved from certain death by a ninja couple after being pushed from a 60-story cancer hospital in south Florida. But that period of disorientation and delusion had absolutely nothing to do with what happened to me before my cortex began to recover: the period, that is, when it was shut down and incapable of supporting consciousness at all. During that period, I experienced something very similar to what countless other people who have undergone near-death experiences have witnessed: the transition to a realm beyond the physical, and a vast broadening of my consciousness. The only real difference between my experience and those others is that my brain was, essentially, deader than theirs.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Renown neurosurgeon Eben Alexander Dies at 91(2004)". Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Dr. Eben Alexander – NDE". NDE Stories. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  3. ^ Dittrich Aug 2013.
  4. ^ Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 169.
  5. ^ Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 40.
  6. ^ Alexander, Eben (October 8, 2012), “Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife”, Newsweek.
  7. ^ Eben Alexander III (2012). "My Experience in Coma". AANS Neurosurgeon 21 (2). Retrieved November 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ Ingrid Peschke (2013-10-24). "Dr. Eben Alexander Says It's Time for Brain Science to Graduate From Kindergarten". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  9. ^ "Dr. Eben Alexander Shares What God Looks Like". OWN TV. Retrieved 2014-06-14. 
  10. ^ Cowles, Gregory (July 7, 2013). "Best Sellers". Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction (The New York Times). Archived from the original on July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Dittrich, Luke (August 2013). "The Prophet: An Investigation of Eben ALexander, Author of the Blockbuster "Proof of Heaven"". Esquire (New York City: Hearst Communications, Inc.): pp 88–95, 125–126, 128.  Page 95: "On August 6, 2008, the patient filed a $3 million lawsuit against Alexander, accusing him of negligence, battery, spoliation, and fraud. The purported cover-up, the changes Alexander had made to the surgical report, was a major aspect of the suit. Once again, a lawyer was accusing Alexander of altering the historical record when the historical record didn't fit the story he wanted to tell."
  12. ^ a b "Was 'Proof of Heaven' author hallucinating?". Daily Mail (London). July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2013.  Daily Mail Online, Published July 2, 2013. Includes photos of the Esquire magazine August 2013 cover and the article's author, contributing editor Luke Dittrich, and a response from Alexander on the controversy.
  13. ^ a b Jeff Bercovici. "Esquire Unearths 'Proof of Heaven' Author's Credibility Problems". Forbes. Retrieved July 13, 2013. 
  14. ^ Harris, Sam (October 12, 2012), “This Must Be Heaven’’ @ SamHarris.com.
  15. ^ Sam Harris (November 11, 2012). "Science on the Brink of Death". Retrieved November 26, 2012. 
  16. ^ Sacks, Oliver, “Seeing God in the Third Millennium”, The Atlantic Monthly (December 12, 2012).
  17. ^ Eben Alexander (November 18, 2012). "The Science of Heaven". Newsweek. Retrieved 2012-11-26. 

External links[edit]