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The Effects of Compassionate Presence on People in Comas

The Effects of Compassionate Presence on People in Comas

Have you ever wondered if someone in a near death state could hear your words or feel your presence?

Clues to the mystery of transition from earthly life are offered in accounts by individuals who have survived coma and unconscious states and from the experiences of people who care for the dying. Numerous reports from both practitioners and patients suggest that the presence of others who are loving and caring is helpful and meaningful for those who lapse into unconscious or non-communicative states near death. There has been little research, however, on the non-communicative dying to determine whether there is in fact any communication or exchange with those in their presence.

Motivated to understand more about the process of dying and ways to help people going through this process, Jeanne Denney of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, Calif. initiated a study. Her investigation explored the effects of “compassionate presence” on the mental, emotional and physical states of people near death in comatose or non-communicative states, as well as the effects on their caregivers and others who were with them.

Drawing on the Institute of HeartMath’s research on the heart’s role in “energetic communication,” Denney postulated that in these non-communicative states much of the nonverbal exchange between patients and caregivers or loved ones —such as feelings of love and compassion—could be communicated on some level via the heart’s energetic field. To provide a physical measurement of this communication, Denney used HeartMath’s emWave (formerly called Freeze-Framer®) heart rhythm monitor to record the heart rhythm patterns of hospice patients and volunteers–“sitters”–who were holding a state of loving compassion in their presence.

graph - coma patients

HRV graphs and coherence scores and comparison of comatose patient and caregivers with measurements from a emWave Technology that monitors subtle changes in the pulsations of a vital human organ: the human heart.

Denney found that the patients appeared to be very sensitive to people in their environment: They exhibited discernible patterns or changes in their heart rhythms that coincided with the sitter’s heart patterns, changes or actions. In 23 of 24 sittings analyzed, there was evidence of simultaneous changes occurring in sitter and patient heart rhythms. Even in profoundly brain-injured patients, there was evidence that a close, loving relationship had a strong effect on a patient’s heart patterns. This was most evident for one patient whose heart rhythm level, or what we at HeartMath and others call “heart coherence” level, was more than nine times greater when her husband was present than when other sitters were present. A particularly closely felt connection between one of the hospice volunteers and another patient was also reflected in a notable increase in the patient’s heart coherence level when that particular volunteer was in close proximity. Significantly, this caregiver had only known this patient while she was in a comatose state. Denney also found that patients exhibited clear heart rhythm responses to touch, prayer and meditation.

The findings of this study provide evidence that when verbal exchange is no longer possible, an energetic communication occurs between patients and their caregivers and others, even at the final stages of life.

Denney concludes: “Understanding more about how people in these states perceive and respond could greatly enrich the sense of meaning and depth of exchange at this point of life.”

For the full study, “The Effects of States of Compassionate Presence on People in Comatose States Near Death,” by Jeanne M. Denney, go to:

View more energetic research papers in IHM’s Research Library.

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Sara, from the HeartMath Institute

Sara Childre is President and CEO of the non-profit Institute of HeartMath. Since 1991, Sara has helped oversee and develop HeartMath trainings, educational products and scientific programs. She was appointed vice president and CFO of the institute in 1992, then president and CEO in 1998.


+ add your own
8:12PM PST on Mar 3, 2015

Thank you

8:19PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Good article. Of course it applies what we already know.

11:36PM PDT on Jun 7, 2014

never assume that they can't know you are there, or can't hear you.
When my dad was in a coma before he passed away, we talked to him
as if he could hear us. Just in case.

11:49PM PDT on Apr 28, 2014

No doubt whatsoever!!

11:51AM PDT on Apr 15, 2014

Well that makes sense.

11:51AM PDT on Apr 15, 2014


7:25AM PDT on Mar 31, 2014

Trust that love will find a way.

7:25AM PDT on Mar 31, 2014

O would imagine that on some level they would know that your there.

3:01PM PDT on Mar 29, 2014

Thank you.

10:44AM PDT on Mar 29, 2014


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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