Minimally conscious state and human dignity

Neuroethics 2 (1):35-50 (2008)
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Abstract

Recent progress in neurosciences has improved our understanding of chronic disorders of consciousness. One example of this advancement is the emergence of the new diagnostic category of minimally conscious state (MCS). The central characteristic of MCS is impaired consciousness. Though the phenomenon now referred to as MCS pre-existed its inclusion in diagnostic classifications, the current medical ethical concepts mainly apply to patients with normal consciousness and to non-conscious patients. Accordingly, how we morally should stand with persons in minimally conscious state remains unclear. In this paper, I examine whether the notion of human dignity could provide us with guidance with the moral difficulties MCS gives rise to. More precisely, I focus on the question of whether we are justified in holding that persons in minimally conscious state possess human dignity.

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