He was brutally assaulted eight years ago when he was 30 and left in a near-vegetative state. The surgeon told his mother that he would “be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”
But now pioneering U.S. doctors are reawakening this 38-year-old man. He can chew and swallow food, drink out of a cup, raise his toothbrush and recite the first 16 words of the pledge of allegiance.
What happened? A team of doctors has used deep-brain electrical stimulation to kick-start the patient’s brain activity – a kind of pace maker for the brain. Doctors hope this treatment will have beneficial consequences for patients with Parkinson’s disease, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and epilepsy. Doctors hope this treatment will usher in a new era for people previously considered untreatable.
One of the researchers in this trial says “it is going to force skeptics to revisit the view that severe brain injury is an immutable condition.”
Does this mean that in the future a case like that of Terry Schiavo should be viewed as potentially treatable? What do ethicists say about this development? Is it a break-through in treating those in a near- vegetative state?