Skip to comments.Is He Conscious? Does He Want To Be?
Posted on 12/17/2011 2:48:34 PM PST by wagglebee
Terri Schiavo of Florida, who's vegetative state
and right to life became a national issue in 2005
The difference between a dead man and a man in a vegetative state used to be a thin line of whether
or not the body was still functioning. But what if the vegetative man is still conscious? That brings
the distinction into a whole new level.
Philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong gave a talk titled Is he conscious? Does he want to be? at the Trent Center for Bioethics on Friday, Dec. 9. He discussed clinical studies which have shown that despite the unresponsive display, patients in vegetative state may be still conscious. With assistance from an fMRI or an EEG scan, doctors can tap into the patients brain activity and read their thoughts.
The scanning studys control was patients who received severe brain trauma and were confirmed to be in a vegetative state. The studies focused on the specific brain activity when the patient was commanded to think about tennis and the brain activity that occurred when the patient was commanded to imagine anything other than tennis. The distinctive brain activities were then coupled with a series of yes or no questions. If their answer was yes, the patient was told to think about tennis and if their answer was no, the patient was told to think about navigating through a house. In one case study, the patient answered five out of seven questions right by showing brain activity associated with tennis to questions for which an affirmative was the correct answer. The other two questions showed no response, and the doctors assumed the patient had gone to sleep.
This confirmation of consciousness in some vegetative patients brings up an ethical issue. Those at the bedside can now ask questions, including do you want to live? The vegetative patients answer to such a question may inform the ethical issue that arises each time we worry about pulling the plug on a clearly living person.
Terri Schiavo was not only conscious, she was fully aware that she was being MURDERED.
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Waking “vegetative coma” patients with a sleeping pill called Ambien.
The best guess is that when the brain is damaged, it shuts down part of the brain with a chemical called GABA, that allows that part of the brain to heal. However, though after this big dose of GABA is a “one shot” by the brain, in some people it sensitizes their brains to normal levels of GABA, which leaves them in a coma.
Ambien is a GABA blocker.
The fact remains that whatever you think is "true" of brain injured individuals, there will be the case that makes a fool of you. I don't care if you're the chief neurologist of Harvard Medical School, the appropriate posture is one of humility. Every day there is an individual somewhere, who destroys your most strongly held theory about what the human brain, and spirit, is capable of.
Her death may have been as painful and frightening as someone dying of thirst in the middle of the desert.
Yes, I've always felt that was the case too. And, I felt that there was a distinct possibility that she might have a chance to recover. Unfortunately, those making the decision to allow her to starve had the say in this matter.
I know a woman who didn’t have any apparent head injuries after a car accident but was in a comatose state for nearly 6 months when she just woke up. She underwent some therapy for her speech and muscle control but within a year of waking up she was effectively living her life as if nothing had happened.
If I were in a vegetative state, I would rather be unconscious than Conscious.
To lie there hour after hour with thoughts of my family and the utter pain I was putting them through as they wondered about me. To have them have to come daily to sit by my side worrying for me would kill me.
Conscious or Unconscious do what you have to, to save me from the horror of lying in that bed perhaps for years while I watch my family suffer. Starve me ,shoot me, pull the plug, just do not torture me by being there and watching you suffer.
Others may feel different, but my family knows what I want, when I get to a point where I cannot help myself let me go.
Lying in a bed with little or no hope is not living.
The problem with what you are saying is that it isn't easy for doctors to know if you are unconscious or conscious, in or our of pain, in or out of the ability to express sensation. It isn't just having your eyes open or closed. It isn't the ability to eat or talk.
You many know that you are conscious ("hey, I'm in here!), but doctors do not always know it if you don't have a way to tell them.
I've been away for a while this year, pretty ill myself; and then I lost my mother. She had a stroke that destroyed half of her brain and the aftermath destroyed the rest. I've had a lot of time to observe what goes on, and to ask questions.
She had an advance directive which I did not think was correct, or even right. But it was hers, so we followed it. Even that was nearly impossible, though. It's hard to follow directives if the sign posts aren't clear.
It wasn't until I faced what you have laid out in your post in person that I really finally understood deeply that doctors don't know much when it comes to some things and make a lot of their decisions based on what they themselves believe.
They can tell you what they think. They can tell you what they see. They can even tell you what you want to hear, perhaps.
But they actually know very little about what people feel, see, think, experience, etc. They don't know if the person is processing information or not, or how they process it, or what it means to them, if it means anything at a given point.
So until they figure out how to determine such things, I would want to err on the side of caution. I thought along these lines before, but now that I've seen it, I'm even more sure of it.
Can you imagine processing information and being unable to act on it?
Seeing the pain in your families eyes?
Listening as they discuss your life or death?
Knowing that all you woprked for is being eaten up by medical bills and the cost of having the family have to be there with you?
Not me. I don’t want that. Kiss me on the cheek and pull the plug.
I’ll be frank with you, since you say that is what you would want. I would like you to understand.
If you are incapacitated, but capable of processing your family’s pain and their words, you are also capable of processing the agony of starvation and of dying of thirst. The unspeakable sensation of having your limbs go cold and dead over days and weeks. Living through those last days, gagging on secretions, or struggling with Cheyne-Stokes.
Look at someone watching their loved ones going through that, when logic tells you that they are in pain and in fear. No guessing, no wondering.
Dying of cancer could be seen as a blessing compared to dying of a brain injury. Dying from cancer means that they may not treat the disease anymore with an eye toward a cure, but generally, they’ll feed the patient, hydrate them, and keep the pain that they know they have at bay.
Dying of a brain injury means that they don’t medicate you, feed you, or give you an IV. To do any of those things goes against what they’re supposed to be doing. Medicating you admits that there could be pain. Feeding you keeps you alive, and you said you didn’t want that. Ditto water.
People think of death the way it is on TV, or maybe from seeing loved ones in the hospital, under sedation.
Death from a brain injury isn’t that way at all. It is, to put it bluntly, horrifying. It is not peaceful.
My mother was nearly 80. It took 23 days. If you were younger, expect it to take longer, perhaps much longer.
It is a shame that we decide to put people on the path of death and suffering because we think it has to be better than living and treating them or at least treating their pain or discomfort.
Wonderful, thank you. Humility is a beautiful quality without which the greatest (fill in the blank - scientist, doctor, whatever) can actually do great harm.
Thank you for your comments, based on experience (and I’d say humility as well).
I hope you are well now.
Of course I have written no code in my medical Power of Attorney, but if the body is functioning on its own, that is where the problem comes in...No one has the right to take the life of another by any means, but to live bedridden, bedsores, incontinent of stool, contractures of the limbs, as a nurse I have seen some pretty bad coma patients.
Its sad for them and their family, but thats the line drawn. If the body is functioning on its own, comfort is all you can give your loved one and hope they know it...
Doctors use pain in determining how deep a coma is...a light coma the body pulls away, in deep coma the body responds to nothing...That's the only way so far we have to determine the depth of coma..
But I once had a patient that was in and out of coma and would be so with in 5 minutes...He would be talking to you and in mid sentence would blink out and respond to nothing and in 2 hours may have a few moments of consciousness and be lucid again...
No one knows much about the brain, but all any one can go by is past experiences with similar patients...Most doctors I have know in hospital just say "we are not sure" or "we just don't know"....
Do you deny the fact that there was no "plug" to pull on Terri Schiavo?
She was dehydrated to death.
Tell you what. You seem to be on the side that claimed a slow death by dehydration is "beautiful...peaceful...painless..."
You also seem in love with dying.
How about I lock you away and deny you food or water for a few weeks. When you snuff it, I get to have your stuff?
I knew when I answered the Post that there would be a kook out there who wants to live for years on a machine and cause the family pain.
I should have just kept my opinion to myself.
I tell you what, you seem to be on the side of keeping otherwise dead people alive for years by artificial means
How about I lock you in solitary confinement in a dark room and just feed you through a tube and talk to you through the walls but don’t allow you to answer .
We can sit here and argue this and that for days as we generally do with these posts, but in the case of your mother she was already on the path for death when it was decided to stop the medication.
You may have kept her from suffering for years instead of the 23 days. Think about that.
It isn’t a decision made easily, it isn’t pretty to watch, neiother is watching them suffer for a year or more on tubes while a mostly dead brain keeps a healthy heart alive.
It’s a decision that will soon be made for us when Obamacare becomes the law of the land.It will be made strictly on a monetary basis, and it will not only be the brain injured patients that it is made on. It will be made according to the cost of keeping you alive.Think about that.
Obamacare will make Terry Schiavvo look like a lone incident not worth talking about.
It will happen to thousands of elderly .
The money form Medicare will be cut off and when your funds run out you die. Obama denies it, but it’s coming.
We can argue all day and you will not see my side Read the post I just made to another poster on this thread. Soon our Government will make that decision for us anyway.
Terri was supposed to receive therapy which would have allowed her to swallow solid food. Her dear husband swore that he would use the settlement money for her care and therapy.
Instead, he blocked swallow therapy and filed a complaint against a nurse who fed her jello orally. Oh yeah, some jokers on FR stated that she might have choked to death on it, how ironic...
And you seem to take the side of those who would eliminate those "useless eaters." Go "zieg heil" elsewhere.
Sorry my opinion does not agree with yours.
As for your Zeig heil Comment you can KMA.
Do you support abortion as enthusiastically as you support euthanasia?
I guess if they had seen a loved one recover from a horrific accident, they wouldn’t be so hungry for death.
Hey man . Why don’t you just shut up you have made an ass of yourself for long enough.
Have you noticed how death loving facists are desperate to silence their opposition.
If you want to post, answer my question. "Do you support abortion as enthusiastically as you support euthanasia?"
Besides, I told you to take your "zeig heil" somewhere else. Don't you have some ovens to fire up?
I guess you just wont quit.
I have never supported abortion.
I do not support Euthanesia.
I should have known better than to offer an opinion in this thread since every time this comes up you Schiavvo nutcases flame anyone with a differing opinion, If you feel so strongly about being kept alive in a vegetative state perhaps one day you may get your wish and find yourself or one you love in that position, at that time make your decision and try to live with it.
“When you reject their ghoulishness, they respond with abbreviated obscenities.” Your statement.
When someone doesn’t agree with your opinion you start calling them Nazi’s and Zeig Heilers.Is there alot of difference Mr. Hypocrite.
Schiavo was not vegetative. She was not on life support. She had a food tube that she would not have needed if she was provided the promised swallow therapy.
When someone doesnt agree with your opinion you start calling them Nazis and Zeig Heilers.Is there alot of difference Mr. Hypocrite.
When you voice the same opinions as the 30s era NAZI Party, don't be surprised at being identified with them.
Oh, you claimed...I do not support Euthanesia.
Do you have a different word for it?
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