While we love skiing with all our hearts and souls, it isn’t news that it can lead to some nasty injuries, or even death. Perhaps one of the worst things that can happen is to injure your brain in a way that leaves you in a vegetative state. Families have to make the decision whether or not to “pull the plug”, and the whole situation is tragic and ugly.
The main ethical debate that always hovers over this subject is: we can’t really measure the level of consciousness of the patient, so how can we end this person’s life without knowing what he/she wants? How can we play God?
This question has gotten more complicated now. British scientists have just “spoken” to a man in a vegetative state using a highly advanced brain scanner. The patient, a 29-year-old Belgian man, has not conveyed any outward consciousness in five years. However, using just his thoughts, he was able to communicate “yes” and “no” answers via the brain scanner. This proves he is aware and conscious.
This study has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. While still in the infant stages, it poses a giant scientific leap for cases of this kind, and it gives many families hope.
Listen to Dr. Adrian Owen discuss this case with the Belgian patient.
And now listen to this journalist, Jeffrey Lean, who was in a coma for a month, discuss his memory of being aware while in the coma.
Be safe when you strap on those skis or boards people. Wear a helmet and protect that brain.