"Persistent Vegetative State" Diagnoses Too Often A Rush To Judgement

From Political Mavens [HT from DWT at DL]

A study by the Coma Science Group of the University of Liège, Belgium, finds that up to half of patients in an acute vegetative state regain some level of consciousness.

In the study, which analyzed data collected over a five-year period, researchers assessed and classified comatose patients according to the Coma Recovery Scale. The researchers determined that some 40 percent had been incorrectly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, when they were in fact in a minimally conscious state. And 10 percent of those diagnosed as being minimally conscious were communicating functionally.

Patients who are minimally conscious shows periodic signs of awareness himself and his surroundings but is usually cannot communicate with others, whereas a patient who is in a persistent vegetative state is awake but lacks such awareness.

The Coma Science Group's Dr. Steven Laureys presented the study findings at the European Neurological Society congress in June:

"Our data show that acute vegetative state is certainly not rare among patients admitted to intensive care ... What is important to note is that it may be transient and that the prognosis for patients with impaired consciousness depends to a great extent on the nature of the brain damage. ... The study underlines the importance of extreme caution in any decision to limit the life chances of patients during the acute phase of a vegetative state." ...

Take the case of Jesse Ramirez, who suffered major brain injuries after his car flipped over and he was thrown from the vehicle on May 30th. Doctors predicted that the 36-year old Arizonan could remain in a permanent vegetative state. Less than two weeks after the accident, his wife, Rebecca, 33, asked doctors to remove his food and water tubes. But Jesse's family challenged her decision in court, and a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ordered the tubes reconnected.

And then, Ramirez regained consciousness. The Arizona Republic reports:

[H]e can hug and kiss, nod his head, answer yes and no questions, give a thumbs-up sign and sit in a chair. ...

Jesse is now ready to move from a hospice to a rehabilitation facility.

"We have had a lot of miracles," said Betty Valenzuela, Ramirez's aunt. "He would have been gone."

"All of the family is absolutely thrilled that he has now become conscious and is able to go through rehab," Judge Paul Katz said. ...


The Arizona Republic notes that this same Judge Katz had previously scolded the family for not acting in Jesse's best interest
.




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