The Minimally Conscious State (MCS) is a state of diminished and disordered consciousness. It is distinct from the Vegetative State (VS) in that MCS patients do experience some level of awareness, although it remains controversial whether the concept of partial awareness or consciousness makes sense. The moral and legal status of MCS patients is contested, with a particularly noteworthy debate concerning whether consciousness makes a moral difference in right to die, end of life, and continuting care debates. With emerging technologies such as Deep Brain Stimulation being proposed as treatments that might increase the level of awareness in VS and MCS patients, there is ethical controversy about the use of these experimental therapies on unconsenting persons, as well as concerns about quality of life in states of impaired consciousness.
The right to die debate, while considered more or less settled for persons in the VS, is more controversial in the case of MCS. Johnson argues that this controversy gets the problem backwards, and that there may well be more compelling reasons to end life sustaining measures in the MCS (Johnson 2011); Glannon claims that quality of life considerations and the burdens of treatment argue for the right to die in MCS (Glannon 2013). Kahane et al consider the moral significance of consciousness (Kahane & Savulescu 2009) in MCS; Gillett calls for a reassessment of the concept of futility in light of MCS (Gillett 2011). Glannon (Glannon 2008) and Schiff et al (Schiff 2009 ) consider the ethics of deep brain stimulation as an experimental therapy for MCS and VS patients.
Until comparatively recently, say the middle of the last century, spinal cord injury was fatal as pressure sores and other infections took their toll. Those with severe brain injuries, unable to move or even communicate, fared even worse; without movement or feeding such patients were nursed until nature took its course. Over the last few decades medical and nursing advances have enabled some of these vegetative patients to survive for considerable time, provoking, at times, ethical and legal dilemmas. Though they (...) survived, without overt behaviour or clear communication their carers were frequently unsure how much residual function remained. Now real progress is occurring in this area thanks to the application of neuro-scientiﬁc methods by some outstanding groups of workers. Subjects with severe brain injury may begin in complete, unresponsive coma but then ‘lighten’ to one of three categories. In vegetative state (VS), patients are apparently awake but without evidence of voluntary behaviour and have no apparent awareness of self or environment, whilst in minimally conscious state (MCS) patients have some behaviour beyond the reﬂex but are not able to communicate eﬀectively. These conditions usually result from widespread brain damage at either or both cortical and subcortical levels due to injury or anoxia, though they can also be seen in end stage neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s. In locked in syndrome (LIS), patients ‘awake’ from coma, usually due to stroke, aware of their surroundings and their situation but unable to speak or move, beyond eye lid control and eye movement. For many, LIS will be recognised from Bauby’s extraordinary account in ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterﬂy,’ though, incidentally, it was presaged in Samuel Beckett’s novella ‘The Unnameable.’ LIS reﬂects a profound disconnection between brain and body, except for the upper cranial nerves involved in eyelid movement. The overriding question is how much awareness these patients have.. (shrink)
Pain, suffering and positive emotions in patients in vegetative state/unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (VS/UWS) and minimally conscious states (MCS) pose clinical and ethical challenges. Clinically, we evaluate behavioural responses after painful stimulation and also emotionally-contingent behaviours (e.g., smiling). Using stimuli with emotional valence, neuroimaging and electrophysiology technologies can detect subclinical remnants of preserved capacities for pain which might influence decisions about treatment limitation. To date, no data exist as to how healthcare providers think about end-of-life options (e.g., withdrawal of artificial nutrition (...) and hydration) in the presence or absence of pain in non-communicative patients. Here, we aimed to better clarify this issue by re-analyzing previously published data on pain perception (Prog Brain Res 2009 177, 329–38) and end-of-life decisions (J Neurol 2010 258, 1058–65) in patients with disorders of consciousness. In a sample of 2259 European healthcare professionals we found that, for VS/UWS more respondents agreed with treatment withdrawal when they considered that VS/UWS patients did not feel pain (77%) as compared to those who thought VS/UWS did feel pain (59%). This interaction was influenced by religiosity and professional background. For MCS, end-of-life attitudes were not influenced by opinions on pain perception. Within a contemporary ethical context we discuss (1) the evolving scientific understandings of pain perception and their relationship to existing clinical and ethical guidelines; (2) the discrepancies of attitudes within (and between) healthcare providers and their consequences for treatment approaches, and (3) the implicit but complex relationship between pain perception and attitudes toward life-sustaining treatments. (shrink)
The intriguing issue of pain and suffering in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOCs), particularly in Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome/Vegetative State (UWS/VS) and Minimally Conscious State (MCS), is assessed from a theoretical point of view, through an overview of recent neuroscientific literature, in order to sketch an ethical analysis. In conclusion, from a legal and ethical point of view, formal guidelines and a situationist ethics are proposed in order to best manage the critical scientific uncertainty about pain and suffering in DOCs (...) and ensure the best possible care for the patient. (shrink)
Notwithstanding fundamental methodological advancements, scientific information about disorders of consciousness (DOCs)—e.g. Vegetative State/Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (VS/UWS) and Minimally Conscious State (MCS)—is incomplete. The possibility to discriminate between different levels of consciousness in DOC states entails treatment strategies and ethical concerns. Here we attempted to investigate Italian clinicians’ and basic scientists’ opinions regarding some issues emerging from the care and the research on patients with DOCs. From our survey emerged that Italian physicians working with patients with DOCs give a central role (...) to ethics. Current Italian regulation regarding basic research conducted in patients with DOCs apparently risks to be inadequate to support scientific advancement, and would deserve a different assessment compared to ordinary treatments. We think the results of our survey deserve attention from an international audience because they exemplify the difficulty to define a shared approach to the issues related to patients with DOCs and the necessity to better assess both the ordinary and experimental treatment of patients with DOCs at the ethical and legal level. (shrink)
Objective: The value of spontaneous EEG oscillations in distinguishing patients in vegetative and minimally conscious states was studied. Methods: We quantified dynamic repertoire of EEG oscillations in resting condition with closed eyes in patients in vegetative and minimally conscious states (VS and MCS). The exact composition of EEG oscillations was assessed by the probability-classification analysis of short-term EEG spectral patterns. Results: The probability of delta, theta and slow-alpha oscillations occurrence was smaller for patients in MCS than for VS. Additionally, only (...) patients in MCS demonstrated fast-alpha oscillation occurrence. Depending on the type and composition of EEG oscillations, the probability of their occurrence was either aetiology dependent or independent. The probability of EEG oscillations occurrence differentiated brain injuries with different aetiologies. Conclusions: Spontaneous EEG oscillations have a potential value in distinguishing patients in VS and MCS. Significance: This work may have implications for clinical care, rehabilitative programs and medical–legal decisions in patients with impaired consciousness states following coma due to acute brain injuries. (shrink)
The value of resting electroencephalogram (EEG) in revealing neural constitutes of consciousness (NCC) was examined. We quantified the dynamic repertoire, duration and oscillatory type of EEG microstates in eyes-closed rest in relation to the degree of expression of clinical self-consciousness. For NCC a model was suggested that contrasted normal, severely disturbed state of consciousness and state without consciousness. Patients with disorders of consciousness were used. Results suggested that the repertoire, duration and oscillatory type of EEG microstates in resting condition quantitatively (...) related to the level of consciousness expression in brain-damaged patients and healthy-conscious subjects. Specifically, results demonstrated that (a) decreased number of EEG microstate types was associated with altered states of consciousness, (b) unawareness was associated with the lack of diversity in EEG alpha-rhythmic microstates, and (c) the probability for the occurrence and duration of delta-, theta- and slow-alpha-rhythmic microstates were associated with unawareness, whereas the probability for the occurrence and duration of fast-alpha-rhythmic microstates were associated with consciousness. In conclusion, resting EEG has a potential value in revealing NCC. This work may have implications for clinical care and medical–legal decisions in patients with disorders of consciousness. (shrink)
Background: Patients in a vegetative state pose problems in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. Currently, no prognostic markers predict the chance of recovery, which has serious consequences, especially in end-of-life decision-making. -/- Objective: We aimed to assess an objective measurement of prognosis using advanced electroencephalography (EEG). -/- Methods: EEG data (19 channels) were collected in 14 patients who were diagnosed to be persistently vegetative based on repeated clinical evaluations at 3 months following brain damage. EEG structure parameters (amplitude, duration and variability (...) within quasi-stationary segments, as well as the spatial synchrony between such segments and the strength of this synchrony) were used to predict recovery of consciousness 3 months later. -/- Results: The number and strength of cortical functional connections between EEG segments were higher in patients who recovered consciousness (P < .05 – P < .001) compared with those who did not recover. Linear regression analysis confirms that EEG structure parameters are capable of predicting (P = .0025) recovery of consciousness 6 months post-injury, whereas the same analysis failed to significantly predict patient outcome based on aspects of their clinical history alone (P = .629) or conventional EEG spectrum power (P = .473). -/- Conclusions: The result of this preliminary study demonstrates that structural strategy of EEG analysis is better suited for providing prognosis of consciousness recovery than existing methods of clinical assessment and of conventional EEG. Our results may be a starting point for developing reliable prognosticators in patients who are in vegetative state, with the potential to improve their day-to-day management, quality of life, and access to early interventions. (shrink)
Although several studies propose that the integrity of neuronal assemblies may underlie a phenomenon referred to as awareness, none of the known studies have explicitly investigated dynamics and functional interactions among neuronal assemblies as a function of consciousness expression. In order to address this question EEG operational architectonics analysis (Fingelkurts and Fingelkurts, 2001, 2008) was conducted in patients in minimally conscious (MCS) and vegetative states (VS) to study the dynamics of neuronal assemblies and operational synchrony among them as a function (...) of consciousness expression. We found that in minimally conscious patients and especially in vegetative patients neuronal assemblies got smaller, their life-span shortened and they became highly unstable. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the extent/volume and strength of operational synchrony among neuronal assemblies was smallest or even absent in VS patients, intermediate in MCS patients and highest in healthy fully-conscious subjects. All findings were similarly observed in EEG alpha as well as beta1 and beta2 frequency oscillations. The presented results support the basic tenets of Operational Architectonics theory of brain-mind functioning and suggest that EEG operational architectonics analysis may provide an objective and accurate means of assessing signs of (un)consciousness in patients with severe brain injuries. Therefore this methodological approach may complement the existing “gold standard” of behavioral assessment of this population of challenging patients and inform the diagnostic and treatment decision-making processes. (shrink)
The default mode network (DMN) has been consistently activated across a wide variety of self-related tasks, leading to a proposal of the DMN’s role in self-related processing. Indeed, there is limited fMRI evidence that the functional connectivity within the DMN may underlie a phenomenon referred to as self-awareness. At the same time, none of the known studies have explicitly investigated neuronal functional interactions among brain areas that comprise the DMN as a function of self-consciousness loss. To fill this gap, EEG (...) operational synchrony analysis was performed in patients with severe brain injuries in vegetative and minimally conscious states to study the strength of DMN operational synchrony as a function of self-consciousness expression. We demonstrated that the strength of DMN EEG operational synchrony was smallest or even absent in patients in vegetative state, intermediate in patients in minimally conscious state and highest in healthy fully self-conscious subjects. At the same time the process of decoupling of operations performed by neuronal assemblies that comprise the DMN was highest in patients in vegetative state, intermediate in patients in minimally conscious state and minimal in healthy fully self-conscious subjects. The DMN’s frontal EEG operational module had the strongest decrease in operational synchrony strength as a function of selfconsciousness loss, when compared with the DMN’s posterior modules. Based on these results it is suggested that the strength of DMN functional connectivity could mediate the strength of self-consciousness expression. The observed alterations similarly occurred across EEG alpha, beta1 and beta2 frequency oscillations. Presented results suggest that the EEG operational synchrony within DMN may provide an objective and accurate measure for the assessment of signs of self-(un)consciousness in these challenging patient populations. This method therefore, may complement the current diagnostic procedures for patients with severe brain injuries and, hence, the planning of a rational rehabilitation intervention. (shrink)
BackgroundWhether patients in the vegetative state (VS), minimally conscious state (MCS) or the clinically related locked-in syndrome (LIS) should be kept alive is a matter of intense controversy. This study aimed to examine the moral attitudes of lay people to these questions, and the values and other factors that underlie these attitudes.MethodOne hundred ninety-nine US residents completed a survey using the online platform Mechanical Turk, comprising demographic questions, agreement with treatment withdrawal from each of the conditions, agreement with a series (...) of ethical principles and three personality tests.ResultsMore supported treatment withdrawal from VS (40.2 % agreed, 17.6 % disagreed) than MCS (20.6 %, 41.2 %) or LIS (25.3 %, 35.8 %). Agreement with treatment withdrawal was negatively correlated with religiosity (r = −0.272, P < 0.001), though showed no significant relationship with need for cognition or empathy, and only a partial association with utilitarian judgment in a standard moral dilemma. Support for treatment withdrawal was most strongly associated with endorsement of the importance of patient autonomy, dignity, suffering, best interests. Distributive justice was not given significant weight by most. Importantly, agreement with treatment withdrawal was noticeably higher when considered from a first as opposed to third person perspective for VS (Z = −6.056, P < 0.001), MCS (Z = −6.746, P < 0.001) and LIS (Z = −6.681, P < 0.001).ConclusionLay attitudes to withdrawal of treatment in brain damaged patients are largely shaped by values similar to those central to the secular ethical debate. Neither traditional values such as the sanctity of life nor utilitarian values relating to resource allocation seem to play a central role. Far greater weight is given to autonomy, which may explain why participants were far more willing to endorse withdrawal of treatment when the issue was presented in the first person, or in relation to a concrete case involving a patient’s explicit wishes. Surveys focusing on abstract cases presented in the third person may not provide an accurate picture of lay attitudes to these critical ethical questions. (shrink)
In the case of the minimally conscious patient M, the English Court of Protection ruled that it would be unlawful to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) from her. The Court reasoned that the sanctity of life was the determining factor and that it would not be in M's best interests for ANH to be withdrawn. This paper argues that the Court's reasoning is flawed and that continued ANH was not in this patient's best interests and thus should have been (...) withdrawn. (shrink)
Neurostimulation to restore cognitive and physical functions is an innovative and promising technique for treating patients with severe brain injury that has resulted in a minimally conscious state (MCS). The technique may involve electrical stimulation of the central thalamus, which has extensive projections to the cerebral cortex. Yet it is unclear whether an improvement in neurological functions would result in a net benefit for these patients. Quality-of-life measurements would be necessary to determine whether any benefit of neurostimulation outweighed any harm (...) in their response to different degrees of cognitive and physical disability. These measures could also indicate whether the technique could be ethically justified and whether surrogates could give proxy consent to its use on brain-injured patients. (shrink)
Disorders of consciousness include coma, the vegetative state and the minimally conscious state. Such patients are often regarded as unconscious. This has consequences for end of life decisions for these patients: it is much easier to justify withdrawing life support for unconscious than conscious patients. Recent brain imaging research has however suggested that some patients may in fact be conscious.
This short comment on the Court of Protection decision in W v M draws attention to the primacy the judge gave to the preservation of life and discusses the relative lack of weight accorded to M's previously expressed views.
The right to die has for decades been recognised for persons in a vegetative state, but there remains controversy about ending life-sustaining medical treatment for persons in the minimally conscious state (MCS). The controversy is rooted in assumptions about the moral significance of consciousness, and the value of life for patients who are conscious and not terminally ill. This paper evaluates these assumptions in light of evidence that generates concerns about quality of life in the MCS. It is argued that (...) surrogates should be permitted to make decisions to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment from patients in the MCS. (shrink)
Disorders of consciousness pose a substantial ethical challenge to clinical decision making, especially regarding the use of life-sustaining medical treatment. For these decisions it is paramount to know whether the patient is aware or not. Recent brain research has been striving to assess awareness by using mainly functional magnetic resonance imaging. We review the neuroscientific evidence and summarize the potential and problems of the different approaches to prove awareness. Finally, we formulate the crucial ethical questions and outline the different articles (...) in this special issue on disorders of consciousness. (shrink)
Neuroimaging studies of brain-damaged patients diagnosed as in the vegetative state suggest that the patients might be conscious. This might seem to raise no new ethical questions given that in related disputes both sides agree that evidence for consciousness gives strong reason to preserve life. We question this assumption. We clarify the widely held but obscure principle that consciousness is morally significant. It is hard to apply this principle to difficult cases given that philosophers of mind distinguish between a range (...) of notions of consciousness and that is unclear which of these is assumed by the principle. We suggest that the morally relevant notion is that of phenomenal consciousness and then use our analysis to interpret cases of brain damage. We argue that enjoyment of consciousness might actually give stronger moral reasons not to preserve a patient's life and, indeed, that these might be stronger when patients retain significant cognitive function. (shrink)
Recent work in neuroimaging suggests that some patients diagnosed as being in the persistent vegetative state are actually conscious. In this paper, we critically examine this new evidence. We argue that though it remains open to alternative interpretations, it strongly suggests the presence of consciousness in some patients. However, we argue that its ethical significance is less than many people seem to think. There are several different kinds of consciousness, and though all kinds of consciousness have some ethical significance, different (...) kinds underwrite different kinds of moral value. Demonstrating that patients have phenomenal consciousness — conscious states with some kind of qualitative feel to them — shows that they are moral patients, whose welfare must be taken into consideration. But only if they are subjects of a sophisticated kind of access consciousness — where access consciousness entails global availability of information to cognitive systems — are they persons, in the technical sense of the word employed by philosophers. In this sense, being a person is having the full moral status of ordinary human beings. We call for further research which might settle whether patients who manifest signs of consciousness possess the sophisticated kind of access consciousness required for personhood. (shrink)
Wijdicks and colleagues1 recently presented the Full Outline of UnResponsiveness (FOUR) scale as an alternative to the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)2 in the evaluation of consciousness in severely brain-damaged patients. They studied 120 patients in an intensive care setting (mainly neuro-intensive care) and claimed that “the FOUR score detects a locked-in syndrome, as well as the presence of a vegetative state.”1 We fully agree that the FOUR is advantageous in identifying locked-in patients given that it specifically tests for eye movements (...) or blinking on command. This is welcomed given that misdiagnosis of the locked-in syndrome has been shown to occur in more than half of the cases (see Laureys and colleagues3 for review). As for the diagnosis of the vegetative state, the scale explicitly tests for visual pursuit, and hence can disentangle the vegetative state from the minimally conscious state (MCS). The diagnostic criteria for MCS have been proposed4 only recently, but Wijdicks and colleagues1 do not mention the existence of this clinical entity in their article. As for the vegetative state, MCS can be encountered in the acute or subacute setting as a transitional state on the way to further recovery, or it can be a more chronic or even permanent condition. The MCS refers to patients showing inconsistent, albeit clearly discernible, minimal behavioral evidence of consciousness (eg, localization of noxious stimuli, eye fixation or tracking, reproducible movement to command, or nonfunctional verbalization).4 The FOUR scale does not test for all of the behavioral criteria required to diagnose MCS.4 It is known from the literature (see Majerus and colleagues5 for review) that about a third of patients diagnosed with vegetative state are actually in MCS, and this misdiagnosis can lead to major clinical, therapeutic, and ethical consequences. We tested the ability of the newly proposed FOUR scale to correctly diagnose the vegetative state in an acute (intensive care and neurology ward) and chronic (neurorehabilitation) setting.. (shrink)
Following coma, some patients will recover wakefulness without signs of consciousness (only showing reflex movements, i.e., the vegetative state) or may show non-reflex movements but remain without functional communication (i.e., the minimally conscious state). Currently, there remains a high rate of misdiagnosis of the vegetative state (Schnakers et. al. BMC Neurol, 9:35, 8) and the clinical and electrophysiological markers of outcome from the vegetative and minimally conscious states remain unsatisfactory. This should incite clinicians to use multimodal assessment to detect objective (...) signs of consciousness and validate para-clinical prognostic markers in these challenging patients. This review will focus on advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging, and functional MRI (fMRI studies in both “activation” and “resting state” conditions) that were recently introduced in the assessment of patients with.. (shrink)
Some patients awaken from their coma but only show reflex motor activity. This condition of wakeful (eyes open) unawareness is called the vegetative state. In 2002, a new clinical entity coined ‘‘minimally conscious state’’ defined patients who show more than reflex responsiveness but remain unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Emergence from the minimally conscious state is defined by functional recovery of verbal or nonverbal communication.1 Our empirical medical definitions aim to propose clearcut borders separating disorders of consciousness such (...) as coma, vegetative state and minimally conscious state but clinical reality shows that these boundaries can often be fuzzy (fig 1). Recent clinical, electrophysiological and neuroimaging studies are shedding light on these challenging limits of consciousness encountered following severe acute brain damage. At the patient’s bedside, it is very challenging to differentiate reflex or automatic motor behaviour from movements indicating signs of consciousness, and hence some minimally conscious patients might be misdiagnosed as being vegetative. For some motor responses (eg, blinking to visual threat, brief fixation, normal flexion response to pain, etc) it remains unclear whether they truly are voluntary or willed because we lack convincing scientific evidence. We also lack consensus on how to practically assess some of these behavioural responses. For example, there is no agreement on what stimulus to employ in the assessment of visual pursuit movements— often one of the first clinical signs heralding the transition from the vegetative to the minimally conscious state. Vanhaudenhuyse and colleagues2 recently studied visual pursuit in 51 post-comatose patients comparing eye tracking of a moving object, person or mirror. It was shown that more.. (shrink)
Objectives: Recent fMRI studies have shown that it is possible to reliably identify the defaultmode network (DMN) in the absence of any task, by resting-state connectivity analyses in healthy volunteers. We here aimed to identify the DMN in the challenging patient population of disorders of consciousness encountered following coma. Experimental design: A spatial independent component analysis-based methodology permitted DMN assessment, decomposing connectivity in all its different sources either neuronal or artifactual. Three different selection criteria were introduced assessing anticorrelation-corrected connectivity with (...) or without an automatic masking procedure and calculating connectivity scores encompassing both spatial and temporal properties. These three methods were validated on 10 healthy controls and applied to an independent group of 8 healthy controls and 11 severely brain-damaged patients [locked-in syndrome (n ¼ 2), minimally conscious (n ¼ 1), and vegetative state (n ¼ 8)]. Principal observations: All vegetative patients showed fewer connections in the default-mode areas, when compared with controls, contrary to locked-in patients who showed nearnormal connectivity. In the minimally conscious-state patient, only the two selection criteria considering both spatial and temporal properties were able to identify an intact right lateralized BOLD connectivity pattern, and metabolic PET data suggested its neuronal origin. Conclusions: When assess-. (shrink)
In the care of patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC), some ethical difficulties stem from the challenges of accurate diagnosis and the uncertainty of prognosis. Current neuroimaging research on these disorders could eventually improve the accuracy of diagnoses and prognoses and therefore change the context of end-of-life decision making. However, the perspective of healthcare professionals on these disorders remains poorly understood and may constitute an obstacle to the integration of research. We conducted a qualitative study involving healthcare professionals from an (...) acute care university medical center. A short questionnaire captured demographic data as well as the experience of participants with DOC patients. A semi-structured interview was used to explore attitudes toward ethical issues identified in a previous literature review. Qualitative content analysis of interviews was conducted with the NVivo software. Accurate diagnosis among DOC is often regarded as a challenge, but this was generally not the case for our participants because most reported high confidence in DOC diagnoses. However, participants reported struggling with prognosis, especially because of its essential role for end-of-life decision making and communication with families. Variability of opinion between healthcare professionals was reported and identified by some as a minor issue while others stressed how families struggle with different medical opinions. End-of-life decision making encompassed a large proportion of ethical challenges in these patients, and the removal of artificial nutrition and hydration created significant discomfort in a minority of participants. The concept of futility was subject to wide-ranging understandings with both favorable and unfavorable opinions. Our data suggest that to ensure the incorporation of new evidence-based advances, attention should be directed to the real-world practices and challenges of accurate diagnosis and prognosis. Given pervasive challenges in end-of-life care, we recommend improved training of healthcare professionals in the care of patients with DOC, particularly in end-of life care, understanding the context of decision making, and determining how to optimally integrate new neuroscience research on the care of patients with DOC. (shrink)
In 2011 the English Court of Protection ruled that it would be unlawful to withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration from a woman, M, who had been in a minimally conscious state for 8 years. It was reported as the first English legal case concerning withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from a patient in a minimally conscious state who was otherwise stable. In the absence of a valid and applicable advance decision refusing treatment, of other life-limiting pathology or excessively burdensome (...) suffering, the judgement makes it clear that the obligation on health professionals falls strongly in favour of preserving life. Although the Court sought to limit the judgement as closely as possible to the facts of the case, it is likely to have a significant impact on life-sustaining treatment decisions for people in states of low awareness. This paper outlines the main legal features of the judgement. (shrink)
Abstract In a recent issue of Neuroethics , I considered whether the notion of human dignity could help us in solving the moral problems the advent of the diagnostic category of minimally conscious state (MCS) has brought forth. I argued that there is no adequate account of what justifies bestowing all MCS patients with the special worth referred to as human dignity. Therefore, I concluded, unless that difficulty can be solved we should resort to other values than human dignity in (...) addressing the moral problems MCS poses. In his new book Christopher Kaczor criticizes the argument I put forward. Below, I respond to Kaczor’s criticism. I maintain that the considerations he presents do not undermine my argument nor succeed in providing adequate justification for the view that all MCS patients possess the worth referred to as human dignity. Content Type Journal Article Category Original Paper Pages 1-11 DOI 10.1007/s12152-011-9147-z Authors Jukka Varelius, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, Turku, 20014 Finland Journal Neuroethics Online ISSN 1874-5504 Print ISSN 1874-5490. (shrink)
In this article, I consider whether the advance directive of a person in minimally conscious state ought to be adhered to when its prescriptions conflict with her current wishes. I argue that an advance directive can have moral significance after its issuer has succumbed to minimally conscious state. I also defend the view that the patient can still have a significant degree of autonomy. Consequently, I conclude that her advance directive ought not to be applied. Then I briefly assess whether (...) considerations pertaining to respecting the patient's autonomy could still require obedience to the desire expressed in her advance directive and arrive at a negative answer. (shrink)