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Phil's Rambling Rants
September 7th, 2006
08:43 pm

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Vegetative States
I heard on the BBC news just now that scientists using new-fangled brain scanning equipment have discovered that a woman in a persistent vegetative state is aware of her surroundings and can even respond to commands.  This is surprising, and does lead me to wonder how many people in such states actually still have a person inside the husk.  But what worries me is the likely reaction of the public.  I'm quite sure that most people will think that this discovery should lead us to be more aggressive about keeping their hearts beating and less ready to pull the plug.

Frankly, this horrifies me.  I don't know if it's that I have more imagination than most people, or just a different outlook on the world, but I think that being condemned to remain conscious trapped in a body that cannot move or communicate would be ghastly beyond belief.  I've long believed that if consciousness has departed never to return, the person is already dead even if their body is still maintaining homeostasis, and it's a foolish waste of valuable medical resources to keep it 'alive' -- but if these findings are born out, and it's found to be a common condition, I think it's even more important to terminate life support as soon as it's clear that the person isn't going to wake up.  I cannot accept keeping a loved one in a state I wouldn't wish on the most foul murderer as a moral act.  And I certainly hope that if I'm ever in such a state, someone will care enough about me to end my suffering -- and that they won't face criminal charges for it.

The one place I can agree with the "pro-life" lobby is that this finding does mean that removing the feeding tube from a vegetable* is not the right thing to do.  If there's someone alive inside there, starving them to death is cruel.  A large dose of IV potassium chloride is much more appropriate. 

*(Is it politically correct to call a human in a persistent vegetative state a vegetable?  Probably not, but do I care?)

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From:pir_anha
Date:September 8th, 2006 04:49 am (UTC)
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I think that being condemned to remain conscious trapped in a body that cannot move or communicate would be ghastly beyond belief.

you are not alone. it frightens me like no other thing. even losing my mind via alzheimer's doesn't seem as bad, once i no longer know that i am fucked.

this is why i have a living will, and why the people making the decisions for me if i can no longer do so myself are fully informed, and agreeable to my wishes. i do not want to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. let me go.
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From:blur01
Date:September 8th, 2006 11:48 am (UTC)
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This is why my living will puts an end to this quickly.
From:starstraf
Date:September 8th, 2006 12:40 pm (UTC)
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After a decade of joking about it I actually put a "drummer clause" in my medical power of attorney. If after two weeks I do not seem to be coming out of a coma or other vegatiative state Pooch is to fly in either Steven or Robin and have them drum - if I make no response ( such as heart beat in time to the drumming) then they are to pull the plug. (actually much more legalese then that but that is the english version)
Since I know that even when I am sleeping I tend to regulate my heartbeat to drumming and I know I have responded to both Steven and Robin this way that is my "minimum quality of life" and a way I "Know" to try to communicate on the most basic level
From:vixyish
Date:September 9th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
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I think that being condemned to remain conscious trapped in a body that cannot move or communicate would be ghastly beyond belief.

I'm with you. I think it would be one of the most horrific forms of torture imaginable.
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