News of the Day ... in Perspective
Brain-damaged people show awareness
Using magnetic resonance imaging, neuroresearchers have shown that brain-injured people may in fact hear and register what is going on around them but simply be unable to respond.
Although study subjects had less than 50% of normal neural activity, brain activity similar to that of healthy persons was observed when an audiotape of a loved one’s voice was played.
“This study gave me goose bumps, because it shows this possibility of this profound isolation, that these people are there, that they’ve been there all along, even though we’ve been treating them as if they’re not,” said Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of the medical ethics division of New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Dr. Fins said that as many as 30% of patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state were actually minimally conscious.
The patients are “more human than we imagined in the past, and it is unconscionable not to aggressively pursue research efforts to evaluate them and develop therapeutic techniques,” stated Dr. Joy Hirsch, director of the Functional MRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center and the study’s senior author.
The study, which just appeared in Neurology, is relevant to cases like that of Terri Schindler Schiavo (NY Times, Feb 8, 2005) (NY Times, Feb 8, 2005).
The fight to save Terri Schindler Schiavo from death by starvation/dehydration: www.terrisfight.org