Skip to comments.So-Called “Vegetative” Patient Communicates With Doctors
Posted on 11/13/2012 11:53:01 PM PST by kathsua
The battle to protect patients in a so-called vegetative state from euthanasia took a positive turn today with the news that doctors have been able to communicate with one patient.
A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a persistent vegetative state for more than a decade has been able to communicate with scientists that he is not in any pain. Its the first time an uncommunicative brain-injured patient has been able to communicate.
The news could change the way doctors and society views such patients. From the story:
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.
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.
Prof Owen said it was a groundbreaking moment.
Asking a patient something important to them has been our aim for many years. In future we could ask what we could do to improve their quality of life. It could be simple things like the entertainment we provide or the times of day they are washed and fed.
Scott Routleys 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 Routleys 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.
Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging, began his work on the study in London in 2011. The work at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University mirrored what Owen did in England, work that was published in 2006 by the New England Journal of Medicine that found 18% of patients believed to be in a vegetative state were actually conscious.
Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith previously commented on the research.
Patients diagnosed as persistently unconscious may be the most scorned people on earth. I mean, who else could be called a turnip or carrot with impunity? he asked, saying he was hopeful the research would give them some humanity in the eyes of society.
Last month, a 12-year-old boy, whose doctor claimed he was in a persistent vegetative state after suffering a gunshot wound to the head, was talking and receiving physical therapy at a Dallas hospital.
Before modern medical technology, this guy would likely have died soon after his accident.
Now modern technology is unnaturally keeping him alive while locked inside his body.
Must be the worst kind of prison.
I would rather die than live like that.
It’s time we stop killing people just because someone else says their life isn’t worth living
A little ancient elbow grease would clean that place up a lot. I think you have spotted a cultural problem, not just a technological one. Ditches and middens have been around a long time.
I live in a place where many are coming out of the stone age. Even w/o technology, people do not have to endure that squalor.
It’s the decay of moral values that have come with the widespread acceptance of abortion that have led to this cheapening of human life.
Abortion is like a gateway drug that has been dispensed by heartless leftists as though it was a thing to be admired and a delight for all who partake of it.
Physicians that perform late term abortions are lifted up as heroes by throngs of true believers who think that everything is dead and nothing is wrong, that actions are simply legal or illegal and there are no moral absolutes.
These creatures go by many names..Marxists, communists, leftists, atheists.... Freepers recognize them when they see them. This loathsome collection of filth will soon be making life and death decisions as our wonderful new health care system gets rolled out. :-(
We have the technology and modern medicine and people still reject it. That’s where the problems come from.
Unfortunately, modern medicine has been hurting its own credibility with the 'butter good/butter bad, apples good/apples bad', sort of nonsense, which is about the level of scientific understanding of many of the masses, despite what should be one of the finest public education systems in the world--instead given over to socialist dogma, victim studies, and mush.
And sadly, there are competing forces, which would 'harvest' organs for transplant on the one hand, or simply be relieved of the 'burden' of caring for or visiting a relative who is greatly dependent on others for care, whether that motivation be emotional or financial, on the other, all allied in the push for 'quick' solutions, and not necessarily the 'right' ones.
This discovery, however may help lead to mapping the nerve centers and pathways which could lead to a breakthrough in spinal cord or even brain repair, a way to (for instance) cure those injured in wartime and in peaceful pursuits.
It is still the least understood organ in the body.
Wow, do you ever have the wrong “handle” to post on this thread...which is sure to be bereft of logic.
Never mind that the worst nightmare in all of humanity has universally been that of being “buried alive”....and that this is far worse since you don’t eventually fall asleep to peacefully die as the oxygen runs out.
There is no string wound through your fingers to ring the bell...just the horror of waking up repeatedly to find that it is not a nightmare, but reality. Day, after day, after day...with some celebrating the torture as success. This is simply horrifying if it proves to be true.
God help us all.
It’s a shame the doctors can’t cut him up and resell his parts to other patients. There’s so much money to be made. /sarc
Not necessarily so. Brain Injury unlike Spinal Cord Injury can at any time improve even years down the road. I worked in a nursing home as did my wife back in the 1980's. My wife suffered a spinal infarction and had to quit work and I quit to care for her then returned to work till my own disabilities hit me. A year and a half later after her release from rehab we were driving near a local rehab center for head injury and spinal cord injuries. We saw a patient we had known at work who could barely even talk. He had been that way about 5 years due to head trauma. All of the sudden there he was living independent in an apartment walking down the sidewalk. He could carry on a pretty good converstaion also.
I worked in the maintenance portion of nursing homes my wife was a CNA. I made darn sure so called Vegetated Patients got a very sensitive Nurse Call switch where their slightest touch would activate it. I would explain to them what it was and what it was for.
People need to think about what they say around persons who are in a Coma. The last sense a person looses before death is often hearing.
Maybe you would rather die. But these patients are not on life support. They have a feeding tube and hydration. Usually that's it as far as any special procedures. Most are not even on oxygen.
When my wife was in rehab for three months I saw patients coming in to rehab as she was fixing to be discharged. They had been unconscious for months. We'd see their progress when she'd see them in the doctors office over they years. Not quite as recovered to their abilities before their injury but improved remarkably none the less. I'd rather err on the side of life while life is a possibility. Meaning short of a terminal condition.
My Great Grandfather was a Doctor back in the 1930's. One of his biggest fears we were told was being buried alive. So much so he told his wife that when he passed she was to leave the house for a day or so and come back & check him before calling the undertaker.
One of my relatives had a slab installed over his wife’s grave; he didn’t want to take any chances she’d return!
Is that Detroit?
Sounds reasonable, but you would still find yahoos who would say it was wrong to let them die.
You jest but the organ donation do-gooders hover over these cases and jumping the gun is not outside the realm of possibility especially under socialized medicine where the sheer number of mistakes and ‘officially but not really dead’ cases can only increase.
What stood out to me about this story is that the parents already knew for a long time that their son was “in there” and had the ability to communicate. Doctors didn’t believe them until they used their tests and equipment (that had failed them before) to figure it out. All their previous testing hadn’t revealed this, so they believed their testing over simple evidence that the parents were able to figure out long before.
Way too many doctors (thankfully not all!) have such a god complex, and a view of any non-medical people as being ignorant about anything to do with health and physical well-being. And yet they miss so many things that the supposedly ignorant non-medical people know all along. It frustrates me to no end!
does sound a lot like Terri Schiavo’s parents, doesn’t it?
Terri seemed to have much more awareness than this patient
Lucky for this guy he doesn’t have a spouse who finds his life inconvenient
Yes, like Terri’s parents and probably thousands of other loved ones who were sure of the same thing, but their doctors wouldn’t believe them. It’s horribly sad. Worse than being in this kind of state is being there without anyone believing you are “in there.” What a horrible isolated and abandoned feeling that must be.
It’s high time doctors realized that there are clues to be found “just” by simple (albeit time-consuming) observation, that all their high tech equipment will never find. No, doctors don’t have time to do that, but loved ones do, and if only docs would see them as valuable assets rather than ignorant bystanders!
This story sounds like the U.S. economy under Barack’s leadership.
Close, but not quite. Actually Papua, Indonesia. I, personally, don’t live in the jungle, but it comes up to the back fence.
“Way too many doctors (thankfully not all!) have such a god complex, and a view of any non-medical people as being ignorant about anything to do with health and physical well-being. And yet they miss so many things that the supposedly ignorant non-medical people know all along. It frustrates me to no end!”
About a year and a half ago, my daughter became pregnant. She felt like something was wrong. I didn’t want to distress her, so I said nothing to her; but I did tell my mom, husband and best friend that I agreed with her. There was something ‘off’ about the whole pregnancy.
She went to two different doctors for help. Both of them blew her off as an over-reactive first time mom.
Then she started bleeding. I got her to the ER as fast as I could.
The doctor ordered an ultrasound. Didn’t say anything, just left the room. Two more doctors came in and worked on the ultrasound. They sent for another machine. At one point she had half a dozen doctors quietly looking at the ultrasound. This went on for more than an hour.
Finally one of the doctors had the others clear out. He then explained to us that she wasn’t carrying a baby, but a tumor. A molar pregnancy.
She suffered for three months - begging for help. Trying to convince *someone* that something was wrong. That this wasn’t a normal pregnancy. Educated idiots told her that she didn’t know what she was talking about.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve dealt with this crap. Instincts count for something.
Your photo is the result of technology, not the absence of it.
Only reason for the plight of the people in that photo, is an artificially high population level, which is the result of technology.
Interesting, but color me somewhat skeptical absent further research.
Basically what this doctor did was hook the patient up to an MRI. Then he spoke to the patient and said imagine yourself playing tennis and observed a specific part of the brain light up in the imaging. Then he spoke to the patient and said imagine yourself walking around the house and another part of the brain lit up. The doctor then determined that playing tennis meant no and walking around the house meant yes. Then he asked a series of questions like is the moon made of cheese? and the playing tennis part of the brain lit up supposedly meaning no. Then is the sky blue? and the walking around the house part of the brain lit up supposedly meaning yes. Then he asked are you in pain? and the patient supposed answered no because the tennis area lit up.
But as it is impossible to know for sure whether Scott Routley is in any pain, it is also impossible to know if the no answer was correct or if it was just coincidental that the tennis area of the brain lit up in the imaging. I cant help but think of guided communication efforts that were proved to be wishful thinking and the unconscious influence of the guide rather than communication by the guided.
People in a persistent vegetative state are not brain dead and no one argues they are, so it is not surprising that under stimulus, even auditory stimulus, that an MRI would show brain activity. But the bigger question is whether that brain activity is conscious thought and communication or a firing of neurons in the brain, different areas of the brain stimulated by different sound patterns.
Again, Im not poo-pooing it as it could be a huge leap forward in understand how the brain works and in brain injury. Im just saying that I wouldnt count this as definitive in terms of communication until and unless the results can be replicated in numerous patients in persistent vegetative states by other neuroscientists, neurologists, researchers using the same methodology and using a control group.