Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Man thought to be in a vegetative state able to communicate with doctors

ECM sent me this article from the BBC that may cause you to re-think your beliefs about people in “vegetative” states.

Excerpt:

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.

[...]Mr Routley suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago.

None of his physical assessments since then have shown any sign of awareness, or ability to communicate.

But the British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen – who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario – said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative.

“Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.”

[...]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.

Prof Bryan Young at University Hospital, London – Mr Routley’s neurologist for a decade – said the scan results overturned all the behavioural assessments that had been made over the years.

[...]“I was impressed and amazed that he was able to show these cognitive responses. He had the clinical picture of a typical vegetative patient and showed no spontaneous movements that looked meaningful.”

It seems to me that an increasing number of people in society are turning away from the idea that human life is sacred because it is made in the image of God, and towards the idea that human life has value so long as powerful people think it has value. You can see it easily in the abortion debate where an entire category of humans are deemed “subhuman” because they impost obligations on a stronger group of people. Basically, the right to happiness of the strong trumps the right to life of the weak. I don’t think that life is about feeling happy thought.  I think that life is about doing the right thing.

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