Monday, November 23, 2009

Reason Not to Dehydrate: Man Speaking After 23 Years in Locked-In State

Monday, November 23, 2009, 10:57 AM
Wesley J. Smith

We hear constantly that people diagnosed as being persistently unconscious should be dehydrated to death because they are not “persons,” or are actually “dead”–and so should be available for organ harvesting. We hear that even if the family resists, futile care theory should permit bioethics committees to impose unilateral withdrawal. And we hear this even as repeated studies demonstrate that 40 or more percent of patients diagnosed as PVS really aren’t.

But the dehydrating lobby merely reply, “That’s even more reason to do it! Imagine the suffering!” Well, imagine you are in the locked in state (awake and aware but unable to communicate) and hear doctors telling your family to kill you. Now that is terror.

But there are abundant reasons to treat people with profound cognitive disabilities as fully human beings. First and foremost, because they are us. Second, because we don’t know enough about how the brain works to know that there won’t be some regeneration to permit eventual restoration of some function. But also, because there is always hope.

Case in point: We hear from time-to-time, for example, that a person in PVS awakened. And now in the UK, a man misdiagnosed as unconscious for 23 years is now telling how he was fully aware all along. Read more.

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