Dr Fenwick is a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied Natural Science. He obtained his clinical experience at St Thomas' Hospital.
He is a senior lecturer at King's College, London, where he works as a consultant at the Institute of Psychiatry.He is the Consultant Neuropsychologist at both the Maudsley and John Radcliffe hospitals, and also provides services for Broadmoor Hospital. He works with the Mental Health Group at the University of Southampton, and holds a visiting professorship at the Riken Neurosciences Institute in Japan.
Fenwick is the president of the Horizon Research Foundation, an organisation that supports research into end-of-life experiences.
Fenwick has been part of the editorial board for a number of journals, including the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, the Journal of Consciousness Studies and the Journal of Epilepsy and Behaviour.
Dr Fenwick's interest in near-death experiences was piqued when he read Raymond Moody's book Life After Life. Initially sceptical of Moody's anecdotal evidence, Fenwick reassessed his opinion after a discussion with one of his own patients, who described a near-death experience very similar to that of Moody's subjects. Since then, he has collected and analysed more than 300 examples of near-death experiences.
He has been criticised by the medical community for claiming that human consciousness can survive bodily death. Fenwick argues that human consciousness may be more than just a function of the brain.
"The plain fact is that none of us understands these phenomena. As for the soul and life after death, they are still open questions, though I myself suspect that NDEs are part of the same continuum as mystical experiences."
Fenwick's research has found that near-death experiences do not, overall, tend to have a substantial religious component. The tendency is for patients to reinterpret their belief system in light of the experience, rather than to fit the experience to their pre-existing ideas. He and his wife Elizabeth Fenwick report in their studies that near-death experiences are almost always positive in nature.
He and his wife are co-authors of The Art of Dying, a study of the spiritual needs of near-death patients. The Fenwicks argue that modern medical practices have devalued end-of-life experiences, and call for a more holistic approach to death and dying.