Many people claim to see a tunnel of light when they are on the brink of dying, but one woman said she travelled all the way through before realising it was not her time. The woman, who gave her name only as Beverly while revealing her story online, clinically died for a few moments during surgery. Writing for the Near Death Experience Research FOundation website, she said she believes she had a glimpse of the afterlife.

Beverly says she had a child-like innocence during the “beautiful, joyful” experience and was “flying very fast through a tunnel.”

She wrote: “I was moving so fast that I couldn't see, but thought I saw the tunnel. It looked tan and brown with specks. There was light with more light toward end of the tunnel.

“Then, all of a sudden, I was in silence. I was up high at the ceiling and I felt someone or something near me on my right. I didn't feel like I had a body.

“I wasn't aware of who I was, my life, children, or family. I do distinctly remember feeling like I was a child around age 6 or 7, full of bubbly joy.

“I often wonder about that or was I a free soul full of child-like joy? In this space there was an incredible feeling of joy and overwhelming love. I can't even explain the warmth.”

Then, with a “flash and a loud thud, I was back in my body.”

The experience has always stuck with Beverly, but researchers believe it is not unique to her.

Dr Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City, told Oz Talk: “People describe a sensation of a bright, warm, welcoming light that draws people towards it.

“They describe a sensation of experiencing their deceased relatives, almost as if they have come to welcome them. They often say that they didn’t want to come back in many cases, it is so comfortable and it is like a magnet that draws them that they don’t want to come back.

A lot of people describe a sensation of separating from themselves and watching doctors and nurses working on them.”

Dr Parnia says there are scientific explanations for the reaction, and says seeing people is not evidence of the afterlife, but more likely the brain just scanning itself as a survival technique.

He said thanks to modern technology and science “death does not have to be limited to philosophy and religion, but it can be explored through science”.

“They can hear things and record all conversations that are going on around them.”