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« Splitting hairs over crime and terrorism | Main | Penitentiaries.... »

February 20, 2010


Thanks for bringing this development to our notice, Sujatha. I remember seeing the story play out prominently when the news first broke of the possibility of a sentient mind within the man's vegetative body. I did not however see the retraction of the original claims now that they have turned out to be not quite correct.

The prospect of an active and finely sensitive mind trapped within the inert shell of a body is excruciating to ponder. NYU historian Tony Judt's amazing essay about his own progressive degenerative condition due to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) is worth a read.

What is consciousness? How do we know that someone in a vegetative state possesses little to no consciousness?
This article gives some tantalizing hints as to how it may be measured:
Instead of proper attempts like these, when charlatans take over the field as with 'facilitated communication', we instead see appeals to emotion and preying on the gullible for a variety of reasons (to sell a book, raise funds, push an agenda...).
Judt's essay is quite amazing,even as he describes the feeling of being stuck in a shell of a body. It feels in a way like a jail for life. And yet, others have manage to keep on with life and a progress in thinking, even with their limited bodies, like Stephen Hawking and Roger Ebert.

Catholic bishops in the US have now ruled against the removal of feeding tubes from terminally ill patients (this includes brain damage) except in certain specific cases, even if the patients leave a directive against such measures in their Living Wills. The ruling seems to have at least in part, arisen from the Houben case.

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