Video: ‘Vegetative’ patients not necessarily unconscious

posted at 3:35 pm on February 9, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

This news has been making its way around the blogosphere for a few days, and this CNN video reports on the study on so-called “vegetative” patients covers it pretty well. The study in Cambridge showed that 17% of patients assumed to have no brain activity beyond involuntary impulses actually show cognitive understanding using an MRI to map brain responses to questions asked by researchers. None of the 17% had brain injury due to hypoxia, the underlying cause of the injury to Terri Schiavo, whose case became a national political crisis a few years ago, but the implications of this study are still horrific:

I’m reminded of the dialogue in the film The Elephant Man, in which Dr. Treves asserts that John Merrick (actually Joesph Merrick in real life) had to be mentally feeble as a result of his hideous deformities — to which Treves adds something to the effect that he prayed that Merrick was feeble, because the alternative would be torturous. The new diagnostic ability that this study suggests could mean that patients once dismissed for years as nonresponsive have actually had an interior life without any ability to recognize it or communicate it to the outside world. It could also mean that previous decisions to suspend care may have been made in error, although entirely in good-faith belief that the person inside had utterly vanished.

This could change all of our perceptions on the victims of tramautic brain damage, as well as offer hope for those who remain trapped but conscious inside unresponsive bodies.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2

As I’ve already stated, I consider living in a vegetative comatose state to be far more of a nightmare than death. That might just be me…although I think many share the same sentiment.

Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Ever been daydreaming as you drive past your off-ramp?

Chris_Balsz on February 9, 2010 at 5:30 PM

Hrm… was Terry Schiavo asked for comment?

hawksruleva on February 9, 2010 at 5:31 PM

This has only shown to be the case in Brain damaged victims not oxygen deprived victims (ex: Terry schivo)

Norvell on February 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM

So far.

hawksruleva on February 9, 2010 at 5:32 PM

My view isn’t for everyone, but you asked. Hope that clarifies things. : )

catmman on February 9, 2010 at 4:49 PM

Thank you. While your view is not mine, I want to keep an open mind and hear other reasoning.

Ann on February 9, 2010 at 5:33 PM

better than leaving her as a vegetable.

Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 5:05 PM

You just lost your argument with that one. If she was a vegetable, dead to all life, with no after life, she wouldn’t know the difference now, would she?

mwdiver on February 9, 2010 at 5:53 PM

vegetative
Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 4:39 PM

That’s your middle name.

CWforFreedom on February 9, 2010 at 5:53 PM

no offense, but if I were in a vegetative state, I’d want someone to pull the plug on me. but maybe that’s just me…

Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 3:48 PM

if? idiot

CWforFreedom on February 9, 2010 at 5:55 PM

I’d rather die than leave may family managing me in that condition. My mother had a long decline with Alzheimer’s. I’ll kill myself before I do that to my kids… if I can only remember where I put the gun.

elfman on February 9, 2010 at 6:02 PM

elfman on February 9, 2010 at 6:02 PM

Forgive me for sounding callous, but you’d rather give your kids the pain of dealing with your suicide than helping you through an illness?

catmman on February 9, 2010 at 6:12 PM

Horrifying

There’s a book
I can’t recall the title

the diving bell and the butterfly I think

written by a man trapped in his own body. Could only blink one eye. A speech therapist worked with him to write it

tear inducing reading

blatantblue on February 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM

That is why when asked while I was in the hospital I told the Dr. and my family to keep the damn generators going.

Daemonocracy on February 9, 2010 at 6:45 PM

The first question I’d ask the patient is: are you suffering?

John the Libertarian on February 9, 2010 at 6:53 PM

‘Vegetative’ patients not necessarily unconscious

Toldja.

Now of course it’s perfectly safe for the media to voice this idea out loud, with Terri Schiavo’s ordeal (and the media’s craven behavior throughout) well in the rear-view mirror.

RD on February 9, 2010 at 6:58 PM

This has only shown to be the case in Brain damaged victims not allegedly oxygen deprived victims (ex: Terry schivo)

Norvell on February 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM

FIFY.

Not saying she wasn’t oxygen-deprived, at least at some point; I’m just saying, be careful with what you think you know. She went thorugh several stages of ‘deterioration’ during her ordeal, while under the care of her husband, and not all of those conditions were represented 100% accurately, according to multiple witnesses.

RD on February 9, 2010 at 7:02 PM

Terry S. was not vegetative.

jgapinoy on February 9, 2010 at 7:23 PM

better than leaving her as a vegetable.
Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 5:05 PM

You just lost your argument with that one. If she was a vegetable, dead to all life, with no after life, she wouldn’t know the difference now, would she?

mwdiver on February 9, 2010 at 5:53 PM

You see, it’s never about the ‘vegetable’ herself, it’s always about the ‘dignity’ of said vegetable as measured by outsiders, usually those with countervailing financial interests in the answer to that question.

Measured that way, it’s “beneath her dignity” to live on, no matter what new findings may arise on the human brain in the future.

And it’s especially so if we don’t think she’s even aware she’s a ‘vegetable’. After all, if she was a vegetable and was aware of it, and had little ‘dignity’ then, just imagine how much less ‘dignity’ she’d have (and thus how much more justification we’d have to terminate her) if she’s unaware!

RD on February 9, 2010 at 7:28 PM

rogerb on February 9, 2010 at 3:58 PM

When I meet you in heaven, Roger, we’ll glory in health and forget that we ever had a moment’s pain. Never, ever, ever let naysayers like Palin Steele rob you of one second of glorious assurance.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Then when we first begun!

Grace_is_sufficient on February 9, 2010 at 7:30 PM

better than leaving her as a vegetable.

Palin Steele on February 9, 2010 at 5:05 PM

I heard this a lot at the time. I never understood why people felt qualified to make this decision on behalf of someone else, with the criteria being what they themselves felt, they whose lives did *not* hang in the balance…

sloopy on February 9, 2010 at 7:55 PM

If she was a vegetable, dead to all life, with no after life, she wouldn’t know the difference now, would she?

mwdiver on February 9, 2010 at 5:53 PM

Yeah, I never quite understood how Schiavo’s husband could simultaneously make those two mutually contradictory contentions: 1) she was just a vegetable who had no conscious awareness of her circumstances and 2) he had the spousal obligation to spare her the indignity of being in a helpless state (and coincedentally spare the malpractice settlement he stood to inherit the indignity of any further losses either, of course). How could she suffer any indignity if she lacked cognition?

And the ‘experts’ are NOW saying that none of the patients who’ve been misdiagnosed were vicitms of hypoxy, but those same ‘experts’ were the ones who’ve been offering misdiagnoses of 17% of their patients all these years in the first place! 17-effin-percent! We’re supposed to just trust ‘em that this time their judgement is infallible & they still have it completely right about hypoxy-damaged patients’ cognitive capabilities now?

If an airline pilot had a 17% crash rate, who in their right mind would get anywhere near his plane? How can anyone entrust a practitioner in a medical field which had been so adamantly sure (in effect: ‘Hey, the science is settled, you stupid superstitious religious right rubes’) all the while they were so widely off the mark about so many patients to make a decision about pulling the plug on somebody you love ever again?Uh-unh,I don’t think so.

leilani on February 9, 2010 at 8:19 PM

NOTE TO TERRI SCHIAVO……OOOPS!!!

PappyD61 on February 9, 2010 at 9:35 PM

17 percent is a lot! Four patients out of this small group? A lot. Representative? Dunno.

I guess I focus on that number: Four.

If you are one of those four, the numbers don`t count.

Now, I wonder what that would add up to if we take all such patients as a whole.

It adds up to me being uncomfortable with the diagnoses of “vegetative” to say the very least.

Sherman1864 on February 10, 2010 at 5:30 AM

My problem with the Schiavo case was simple: she had parents and family who were willing to take care of her for the rest of her life. All her husband had to do was divorce her. He refused because he is prick whose goal was to punish her family. He proved that during her final, horrible, days. And he proved it again with the funeral and headstone.

Terri’s case also proved something I had concluded already: liberals are the most hateful, spiteful, deluded, unreasonable, stupid people on the planet. The delightful glee liberals took in trashing Terri’s parents was based solely on the fact that were devout Christians. Liberals love nothing better than to see Christians suffer. The hate spewed at the Schindlers is typical of how all liberals think. Nobody, but nobody, can hate like a liberal.

Jaynie59 on February 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Jaynie59 on February 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM

+10000

Eren on February 10, 2010 at 10:39 AM

“Forgive me for sounding callous, but you’d rather give your kids the pain of dealing with your suicide than helping you through an illness?”

There’s no getting through Alzheimer’s.

All my kids could do is go out of their way for years to placate increasingly irrational, aggressive and childish behavior. Yes, I think suicide would be much more generous.

elfman on February 10, 2010 at 10:57 AM

leilani on February 9, 2010 at 8:19 PM

What you said leilani. I’m really glad I re-read today and saw your post.

My problem with the Schiavo case was simple: she had parents and family who were willing to take care of her for the rest of her life. All her husband had to do was divorce her. He refused because he is prick whose goal was to punish her family. He proved that during her final, horrible, days. And he proved it again with the funeral and headstone.

Jaynie59 on February 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Another reason may have been to cover his own azz. If the eyewitness accounts are true, he may have feared what would happen if her family took custody of her and then began to discover clues, evidence everywhere, of his contribution to her condition.

He used his statutory authority to keep her family from even seeing her. It’s the most incriminating behavior of a supposedly devoted husband I’ve ever seen.

And your garden-variety newspaper or TV channel couldn’t have cared less. All that interested them AFAICT was the exciting new precedent that they were hoping to see.

Terri’s case also proved something I had concluded already: liberals are the most hateful, spiteful, deluded, unreasonable, stupid people on the planet. The delightful glee liberals took in trashing Terri’s parents was based solely on the fact that were devout Christians. Liberals love nothing better than to see Christians suffer. The hate spewed at the Schindlers is typical of how all liberals think. Nobody, but nobody, can hate like a liberal.

Sad to say, I wasn’t prepared for this either. It totally floored me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did.

And I can promise you I’m not a twisted leftist of the variety that loved sticking it to this family, of that I can assure you. My site link should clear that up if nothing else. :)

RD on February 10, 2010 at 3:15 PM

Comment pages: 1 2