Monday, November 14, 2011

Study Finds Patients in "Vegetative State" Often Misdiagnosed

From A study published today in the British medical journal The Lancet found patients are often misdiagnosed as in a “vegetative state” when they are not. The study has ramifications for patients like Terri Schiavo who are abandoned by doctors or family members as supposedly “too far gone.”
The Lancet study noted that “a population of patients exists who meet all the behavioural criteria for the vegetative state, but nevertheless retain a level of covert awareness that cannot be detected by thorough behavioural assessment.”
Using a bedside electroencephalography (EEG) technique to assess patients, researchers studied 16 patients diagnosed as “vegetative” and 12 healthy “controls.” These patients were directed to imagine that they were making a fist and wiggling toes.  A fifth of the patients “could repeatedly and reliably generate appropriate EEG responses” similar to those of the conscious controls.
“Bedside detection of awareness in the vegetative state” raises significant questions about the countless patients who may have been misdiagnosed as being in a so-called “vegetative state,’” the study continued.
Suzanne Schindler, Terry Schiavo's sister, spoke out on the findings. 
“Science has known for years that many patients diagnosed to be in a “vegetative state” were, in reality misdiagnosed,” she said. “The real question is why these understandings haven’t caused us to rethink the morality of removing food and water from such persons.”
“Regrettably, Terri never was afforded these types of examines,” Schindler continued. “This was despite the fact that upwards of 40 medical professionals, some being the most prominent neurologists in the nation, believed that Terri was not in a PVS or could have been helped with proper diagnosis/treatment if given the opportunity. We begged Judge Greer to permit further testing and therapy during the time Terri’s case was awaiting appellate court hearings. Such testing could not have hurt Terri but could have helped her. And yet, Judge Greer consistently refused. Not even the autopsy was able to confirm whether or not Terri was in a PVS.”
“These findings, along with many others similar findings since Terri’s barbaric death, only reinforce our family’s contention that the PVS diagnosis needs to be eliminated. Particularly given the fact that it not only dehumanizes the cognitively disabled, but it is being used in some instances to decide whether or not a person should live or die, as it was used in Terri’s case. None of us deserves to be deprived of food and water,” Schindler added.
The director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics speaks out on the misdiagnosis of patients.  
Burke Balch, J.D., the director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics told LifeNews that an untold number of patients have lost food and water or medical treatment as a result of a wrong persistent vegetative state diagnosis.
“Many patients, probably thousands, have had their food and fluids cut off and died, based on what we now know may well have been mistaken assumptions that they had lost all capacity for consciousness,” he said.
“The Lancet EEG study, together with earlier functional MRI studies, holds out the hope that we may develop ways to communicate with aware patients who have routinely been diagnosed as “vegetative,” much as today eye movements and blinks are used to communicate with some patients with paraplegia.  That would certainly be a positive alternative to starving them to death,” Balch added.
The Lancet study comes on top of previously published studies using more complex and less readily available fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology that demonstrated some patients in a “vegetative” state, when instructed to imagine they were playing tennis, generated brain waves comparable to those of healthy “controls.”
I think we can all agree that food and water is not an extraordinary measures to keep a person alive.  Food and water is in fact an ordinary means used to sustain a person's bodily life.  Even those in a vegetative state should be treated with dignity and allowed to die.  Removing a person's necessary sustenance such as food as water is never morally permissible. 
Here are a couple of videos of Terri Schiavo. 

The government ordered murder of Terri Schiavo should have never been allowed to happen.  The day she died due to being starved and dehydrated to death was indeed a sad day for America. May we as a society never allow this type of travesty to happen again. 


Quite Rightly said...

Despite disabilities, people who love each other can communicate deeply in ways that unconcerned strangers can never understand or even believe.

Makes one wonder who really are the unresponsive.

Leticia said...

Just seeing those videos of Terri breaks my heart all over again. So, many of us wrote and called numerous times to save her life and the judge and government didn't give a darn that this was a breathing and living human being. She was responsive and she DID have feelings, all because of one selfish man.

There is always hope for these precious people and no one should give up on them.

Opus #6 said...

T, I was online in the last days of Terry Schiavo. I argued vehemently for her life. It still sickens me to picture her so-called husband, petitioning the court for permission to murder her. Worse yet, his petition was approved. Despite offers by HER PARENTS to take her back and take over her care completely.

What kind of world do we live in where we aid and abet bloodthirsty husbands? Even if she could not play tennis in her mind, she had willing caregivers. What does it take away from anybody to allow them to care for her? I still don't get it. I don't understand the logic behind withholding food and water from her.

I hate to bring up the Nazis, but I know that the Nazis, in their efforts to "cleanse" their society, first raided assisted living facilities. They told loved ones that the patients were being moved somewhere else. We all know what happened to them. Sick, twisted, selfish people do things like this. I can understand that one woman's husband could have those feelings. I don't understand how a sober court of law could possibly agree.

Lynn Benoit said...

Let us pray that these studies help to stop future murders.

MK said...

"And yet, Judge Greer consistently refused. Not even the autopsy was able to confirm whether or not Terri was in a PVS.”

The yearning to take human life and get away scot-free was too much.

"I hate to bring up the Nazis,"

Don't, those who think just like them are living amongst us and in positions of power.

We should never refrain from naming and shaming them when necessary.

Always On Watch said...

Modern medicine doesn't "know everything," particularly when it comes to the human brain. The human brain is complex beyond human understanding, IMO.

Katherine said...

Terri is proof that everyone has a right to health care.