Rethinking the Conscious Mind
To be aware or not to be aware: that is the question.
By Anne Casselman
DISCOVER Vol. 27 No. 12 | December 2006 | Mind & Brain
In response to a command, a vegetative patient’s brain (right) shows activity similar to a healthy person’s (left).
In response to a command, a vegetative patient’s brain (top) shows activity similar to a healthy person’s (bottom).
Brain scans of a 23-year-old woman who, in a traffic accident, sustained head injuries so severe she met the clinical criteria for a vegetative state are forcing many doctors to reconsider what they know about such patients’ awareness.
In the experiment the woman was instructed to imagine playing tennis or walking around her house for 30 seconds when given the cues “tennis” or “house.” Her brain activity proved identical to that of healthy subjects, suggesting that she carried out the commands.
“We’ve come up with a method for determining that a patient is aware, where the existing clinical techniques were not able to,” says Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, England, who led the study.
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I think this kind of research may have profound implications of the very basis upon which many who adhere to euthanisia make their claims. I know what the Catholic Church teaches on the morality of these matters, but I would like to hear other fellow Catholic’s thoughts on this.
I would also like to hear what other Christian denominations, and even other non-Christian religions and philosophies might think about the potential implications which might come of this research.