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Last November I wrote that when future generations judge our era, one of the areas where they’ll likely be aghast is our treatment of those who we regard as lacking consciousness. That future may come sooner than I had ever imagined.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicin e found that five of fifty-four patients thought to be in a persistent vegetative state showed brain activity indicating awareness, intent and, in at least one case, a wish to communicate.

According to the summary in the L.A Times :

Of 54 unresponsive patients whose brains were scanned at medical centers in England and Belgium, those five appeared able, when prompted by researchers, to imagine themselves playing tennis, and four of them demonstrated the ability to imagine themselves walking through the rooms of their homes.

One of those patients — a 22-year-old man who had been unresponsive for five years after an automobile crash — went on to respond to a series of simple questions with brain activity that clearly indicated yes or no answers, researchers said.

Their work is the first to give physicians and families the prospect of a biological test to determine whether a patient who shows no response to his or her surroundings is conscious and aware of them.

Read more . . .

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