Penny Sartori

Episode 124,  Nov 09, 2021, 05:35 PM

My guest this week is Penny Sartori, a medical researcher and teacher in the field of near-death experiences who did a PhD in NDEs at Lampeter. Penny used to work in the Intensive Therapy Unit in Morriston Hospital in Swansea where she was upset about the death of her patients and which led her to want to research more about death. 

Something that Penny discovered is that the neurophysiological assumptions that better fitted her nurse training didn’t seem to be an adequate or sufficient model for understanding the phenomena. She found that talking to patients about what they were feeling and what they said face to face was an eye opening experience. They appreciated the fact that she was taking their experiences seriously whereas in many cases their relatives might dismiss their testimonies. It was a form of empowerment for them which counterbalanced the trauma of having come close to death.

Penny talks about the negative experiences which some of the patients had, and she reveals what her colleagues thought about her research and the importance for nurses to recognize and validate these experiences and support their patients.

We learn how this ended up becoming the PhD with Paul Badham as supervisor and how this all changed her life. Her work on NDEs has enabled her to become more appreciative of her life and it taught her to live in the moment.

We talk about NDE characteristics, some of the findings of her research, including the seeing of deceased relatives and whether all of the patients she was studying had clinically died. We learn that she is interested in the extent to which NDEs give meaning to patients’ lives, and Penny discusses the lack of acceptance in nursing circles of these experiences. Do we understand the dying process sufficiently?

Penny tells me about the impact of her research and the book, which was serialized in a national newspaper, had on her personally. We also find out what made her enter the nursing profession in the first place and how everything has fallen into place in her life since.

Finally, towards the end of the interview Penny talks about growing up in Swansea where she used to enjoy going surfing, and we hear about her love of 80s music. We learn that she is in touch with her best friend from school, why she enjoyed the solitude of lockdown, and why Penny is a looking forward kind of person.

Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Penny Sartori and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.