Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't Eat the Vegetables

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain. It's the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine. His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting.

Vegetative patients emerge from a coma into a condition where they have periods awake, with their eyes open, but have no perception of themselves or the outside world.
Among the bitterest discussions I've ever had online have concerned the treatment of patients in vegetative states.  Despite my generally social liberal to moderate stances (I don't care much one way or another about gay marriage, I favor abortion for liberals on the grounds that it may be an inherited trait,  and think that widows and orphans need public support in some cases), I was strongly opposed to allowing Terry Schiavo to be starved to death because her husband wanted to remarry, despite her parents strong beliefs that she was capable of some communication.  I figure that what we don't know is greater than what we do know, and imagined the horror of being aware but unable to communicate while being starved to death...
Scott Routley's parents say they always thought he was conscious and could communicate by lifting a thumb or moving his eyes. But this has never been accepted by medical staff.

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