Some Patients in a “Vegetative State” Can Still Communicate


(aeon) – John Smith, a 34-year-old father of two, was driving his car to bowling when he was involved in an accident. His skull sustained a severe trauma and he was admitted to the intensive care unit. John was in a coma, at serious risk of death. Luckily, critical-care nurses and physicians managed to save his life. However, when John opened his eyes and emerged from the coma, he showed no behavioural reactions to stimuli but mere reflexes. He couldn’t answer questions, localise painful stimuli on his skin, follow commands, or fixate objects in a sustained way. For these reasons, he was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state.

The common view about these patients is that, for them, ‘It’s all dark inside.’ According to this view, the light of consciousness is snuffed out. What remains is a hollow, empty body, a mere husk, with no mind or consciousness inside. This view induces us not to spend resources, such as time and money, on the rehabilitation of these patients, not to give them painkillers, and even to treat them as if they were less than human. But this is not right. CONTINUE

Click here to watch video of Terri responding to neurologist ...