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Research Library

The Effects of States of Compassionate Presence on People in Comatose States Near Death

    • Published: 2006 IND
    • Jeanne M. Denney
    • Masters Dissertation, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2006.
    • Download the complete paper, click here.


This study assessed possible effects of exposure to compassionate presence on people in comatose or non-communicative states near death. It used several different instruments in this assessment: biofeedback technology, co-researcher interviews and survey reports. The biofeedback tool chosen for use in this study was the HeartMath emWave® PC/Mac heart-monitoring system. This tool measures heart rate variability, a parameter that has been linked to emotional unease or well-being. Simultaneous biofeedback measurements were taken of persons sitting in an identified state of compassion with patients, and the patients themselves. In addition, other measures such as interviews with caregivers and family members, and reports from and interviews with sitters were utilized to assess the effect of interaction. This study compares information collected from these different methods, and attempts to draw conclusions about the responses that comatose patients and their sitters had to the experience of compassionate exchange.

Findings of this investigation were that the patients studied appeared to be very sensitive to people in their environment. Patients and their sitters exhibited many simultaneous responses to each other in these sittings. Further, there seemed to be evidence of response based on the longevity of the relationship in some patients, as well as response to interventions of prayer, meditation and touch in both patients and sitters. Sitters without exception were unable to maintain qualification coherence levels when at the bedside of a patient. Finally, post-project interviews indicated that sitters and patients showed evidence of response to sittings that extended beyond the study period.