From armchair to wheelchair: how patients with a locked-in syndrome integrate bodily changes in experienced identity

Consciouness and Cognition 21 (1):431-437 (2012)
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Abstract

Different sort of people are interested in personal identity. Philosophers frequently ask what it takes to remain oneself. Caregivers imagine their patients’ experience. But both philosophers and caregivers think from the armchair: they can only make assumptions about what it would be like to wake up with massive bodily changes. Patients with a locked-in syndrome (LIS) suffer a full body paralysis without cognitive impairment. They can tell us what it is like. Forty-four chronic LIS patients and 20 age-matched healthy medical professionals answered a 15-items questionnaire targeting: (A) global evaluation of identity, (B) body representation and (C) experienced meaning in life. In patients, selfreported identity was correlated with B and C. Patients differed with controls in C. These results suggest that the paralyzed body remains a strong component of patients’ experienced identity, that patients can adjust to objectives changes perceived as meaningful and that caregivers fail in predicting patients’ experience.

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Author's Profile

Marie-Christine Nizzi
Harvard University

References found in this work

Survival and identity.David Lewis - 1976 - In Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (ed.), The Identities of Persons. University of California Press. pp. 17-40.
Personal identity.Derek Parfit - 1971 - Philosophical Review 80 (January):3-27.
The self and the future.Bernard Williams - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (2):161-180.

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