You know how anti death penalty advocates say that if it could proven that an innocent man were executed that America would be so outraged that they’d abolish the death penalty immediately.
Well, this is like that. But different.
Scientists just discovered that patients who had been classified as long being in a “persistent vegetative state” actually weren’t. Oops.
New Scientist reports:
Signs of consciousness have been detected in three people previously thought to be in a vegetative state, with the help of a cheap, portable device that can be used at the bedside.
“There’s a man here who technically meets all the internationally agreed criteria for being in a vegetative state, yet he can generate 200 responses [to direct commands] with his brain,” says Adrian Owen of the University of Western Ontario. “Clearly this guy is not in a true vegetative state. He’s probably as conscious as you or I are.”
In 2005, Owen’s team, used functional MRI to show consciousness in a person who was in a persistent vegetative state, also known as wakeful unconsciousness – where the body still functions but the mind is unresponsive – for the first time. However, fMRI is costly and time-consuming, so his team set about searching for simple and cost-effective solutions for making bedside diagnoses of PVS. Now, they have devised a test that uses the relatively inexpensive and widely available electroencephalogram (EEG).
An EEG uses electrodes attached to the scalp to record electrical activity in the brain.
Owen and his team used an EEG on 16 people thought to be in a PVS and compared the results with 12 healthy controls while they were asked to imagine performing a series of tasks.
Each person was asked to imagine at least four separate actions – either clenching their right fist or wiggling their toes.
In three of the people with PVS, brain regions known to be associated with those tasks lit up with activity, despite physical unresponsiveness. This suggested to the researchers that the subjects were carrying out a complex set of cognitive functions including hearing the command, understanding language, sustaining attention and tapping into working memory.
“It isn’t the case that just because somebody doesn’t respond they’re not conscious,” Owen says. “There’s a growing body of data now demonstrating that many of these patients aren’t what they appear.”
This is a great scientific advancement. But it’s also horrifying when you consider how many people were absolutely aware of every single moment they were being starved to death. Awful.
Something tells me that this is more scientific advancement that will likely be ignored by many just so the killings can continue. This will become like the ultrasound for adults – a piece of technology that must be hidden because using it will make people think twice about killing.