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Mostly Dead Patients Are Not In Fact Dead

Hey, you know all those people who've been declared to be in a vegetative state and then starved to death. Well, it turns out that they may not have...uhm...technically...been in what some might label a...uhm...vegetative state. Sorry about that guys. It seems that many of them might have actually been pretty aware of what was going on.

BioEdge reports:

Canadian neuroscientists have detected conscious activity in a patient who has been in a “vegetative state” for 12 years using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Writing in the latest issue of JAMA Neurology, they claim that “in this study we establish for the first time that some entirely behaviorally nonresponsive patients can use selective attention to communicate”.

Lorina Naci and Adrian M. Owen of Western University, in Ontario, examined three patients who were believed to be completely unresponsive after severe brain injuries, two of them in a minimally conscious state and one in a vegetative state. They were able to “respond” by focusing their attention in a way which could be picked up with the fMRI scanner. Two of them communicated repeatedly and accurately. Many bedside assessments had completely missed their capacity for willed behaviour.

“These results suggest,” they write, “that some patients who are presumed to mostly or entirely lack cognitive abilities can have coherent thoughts about the environment that surrounds them.”

The plight of patients in so-called vegetative state can be awful. Research has shown that up to 40% are misdiagnosed and actually have some degree of awareness.
So maybe, just maybe, we should stop killing them. Or are we just calling grown people in bed very big blobs of tissue and saying it's ok to terminate them.

We can't call them "potential humans" like they call the unborn. How about we label them "humans past their expiration date."

*subhead*Big blobs of tissue.*subhead*

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10 comments:

Proteios1 said...

Interesting. I just figured the whole, " declared dead" thing was a front to harvest people for their organs. Because that is the next thing that we will be arguing. As human dignity is flushed down the toilet it isn't just embryos that aren't given life. Those with good organs will be euthanized for their products.

Sophia's Favorite said...

How do you actually manage to mention the words "mostly dead" and not quote The Princess Bride?

"It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do. ... Go through his clothes and look for loose change."

rover serton said...

if I'm there, I want out. Let me go!

rover serton said...

just read the research. If the can as yes/no question, should they ask if they want to be kept alive? I know my answer.

rover serton said...

if I'm there, I want out. Let me go!

Marie said...

@Proteios1:
Have you read Waking Rose by Regina Doman? That is exactly what the villains in the story do. Doman wrote the book in the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, which left a major impression on her.

"On a more serious note, one situation that definitely influenced the writing of the book was the tragic death (murder) of Terri Schiavo. I was so grieved by the entire fiendish legalized killing of a beautiful and maligned handicapped woman that I resolved that I would not go out of my way to sanitize or minimize the medical aspects of Rose's being in a coma, merely because I wanted to demonstrate that these kind of medical humiliations (a tracheostomy, a catherer, being completely helpless) don't make one any less of a human being.

It's said that Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre to prove that an plain, unattractive woman could still be an interesting heroine: I guess I wanted to demonstrate in Waking Rose that a girl in a coma could still be a vibrant and fascinating character, especially since being in a coma is a situation which some people would find so abhorrent that they would consider her a non-human "vegetable" or better off dead."
-Regina Doman, discussing Waking Rose on her blog.


@Sophia's Favorite:
I thought the exact same thing!!

Howard said...

Of course, it is still wrong to murder them even if they are unaware.

Nicholas Trandem said...

Huh, so Bp. Bruskewitz was right and soon-to-be-Saint JP II "the Great" was naively mistaken? I'm not holding my breath waiting for all the Churchmen and commentators who savaged the Bishop over his "contradicting the Pope" to apologize...

elm said...

News headlines here yesterday was about a celebrated football hero who was shot in a drive-by shooting and was declared brain dead but still on the machine so that they could harvest his organs. All I could think about was that he might just not agree with that action to be performed quite so soon.

Nan said...

I have a friend who was in a coma and not expected to live. She was aware of everything going on around her, every conversation that took place in her room.

My mom had a stroke and was in a coma; the doctor said she was non-responsive, yet she squeezed my hand in response to things I said as positive response and kicked her foot in negative response. We could tell when she was asleep. She wasn't expected to live. If she lived, she wasn't expected to regain consciousness or to have any significant brain function. When she awakened her first words were "I wanna go home." She was on a ventilator for 12 days, feeding tube for 6 mos half of which was transitioning to real food, had the catheter for 8 mos and is really pushing water so as not to need it. She remained paralyzed on the left.

That was nearly 2 years ago. A month or so ago, on the feast of St. Sharbel, my sister noticed her left leg moving. She's now in physical therapy and yesterday they talked about using equipment to help her stand; she can stand but only momentarily. Imagine if we'd listened when we were told she wasn't going to live.

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