October 15, 2012
CONSCIOUSNESS SCANNER OFFERS HOPE TO VEGETATIVE PATIENTS: A special scanner developed in Canada is helping doctors more accurately diagnose patients believed to be completely vegetative (and thus, lacking in all consciousness). The machine is able to show that some such patients are, in fact, conscious, but unable to respond in any way. This is similar to functional MRI imaging used by Dr. Adrian Owen at Cambridge University, which has shown similar amazing results.
Bottom line? What we know about the brain is presently very limited. Some percentage patients believed to be “vegetative” are, in fact, conscious. Evolving scientific understanding of brain injury should lead to greater recognition of disability rights and reticence to “pull the plug” too quickly.