Turns out some people who we thought were vegetables, aren’t. Not even in comas. They are lying wide awake, unable to move, unable to speak, unable to scream.
Thank you for linking to this article, Adam.
I wish the smart folks weren’t so slow to figure out important stuff like this. Too distracted by other things, I suppose.
Or maybe many of us just run a little to unaware side generally, even when we judge ourselves to be fully conscious, even when we make it through years of medical training or studies in other scientific fields and have our degrees to show for it. A lot of what’s going on around us appears to be lost on us.
How about that last paragraph about using this technology to extract consent to kill such people?
These words by Evan Kirchhoff have stuck with me: “My dark suspicion about the battle of Schiavo was that we witnessed the awesome legal and medical reverence for the individual will of the patient that will tend to hold in precisely those instances where the patient happens to express the ‘correct’ decision (death!), as determined by the kind of intellectuals who would rather be dead than lose 20 IQ points.”
In raising my severely brain-injured daughter, I’ve had nearly 18 years of experience with such language. It comes at us from all directions and in degrees of obviousness, starting with the “She’ll nevers” we heard from the professionals back at the beginning–killing language in its own right.
What’s new (to me) in this story is that somebody actually decided to apply technology to peel back another layer of the question, “Is this person conscious?” and a news writer decided to put the matter out there in this way. The language becomes a little more up for grabs than the folklorish “he/she/it is in a unconscious, unresponsive vegetative state” allows for.
Fascinating piece. I just saw the summary blurb on this over at Science. A fascinating study–and one that makes you wonder why it hasn’t happened before (like most major breakthroughs).
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