Thursday, September 07, 2006

Normal Brainwaves in "Vegetative" Woman-- Uh Oh!

She's alive. Before someone pulls the plug after labeling me vegetative or brain-dead, I want an fMRI with feedback. Just to be clear: use any means necessary to keep me alive. This New York Times article explains why I choose life:

Yet the study so dramatically contradicted the woman’s diagnosed condition that it exposed the limitations of standard methods of bedside diagnosis. And its findings are bound to raise hopes for tens of thousands of families caring for unresponsive, brain-damaged patients around the world — whether those hopes are justified or not, experts said.
Sure this is an isolated case--only one woman who survived a car crash. Sure, Terri Schiavo was different (they hope). Dead as a door-nail (they hope). Not alive 'cept the breathing (they hope). Her parents were hallucinating--smoking the 'shrooms of love-induced fantasy land. At least, this is what everyone hopes--the doctors, her husband, the lawyers, the rabid supporters intent on seeing abortion rights protection in this case.

But what if she was conscious? Just imagine.

Lives lost? Free associating here, this makes me think about those who are against the Death Penalty because even one wrongly accused person dying would be so unethical that the death penalty should be banned. Do you know how many people lie in comas in the U.S.? Do you know how many more have the "plug pulled"?

The problem with deep unconsciousness, or comas, is the same for severe Autism: expressive language. While Autistic people can take in information, processing it and then putting together cohesive output is difficult. Even the mildest autism cases have trouble "spitting it out", thinking it out, executing thought or action. I call these times mental hiccups. Someone in a coma could suffer the same thing: ability to comprehend input, inability to express a response to the stimuli.

If something like this is true, mourning and discomfort over previous care will no doubt take place. A family member, doctor and person acts different when they believe they're talking to a "head of lettuce" as Maxed Out Mama said rather than a person. But if the person is still in there.....

So, incredible lifesaving procedures result in many people among us still existing. They also result in people in that never never land between full functioning vitality and presumed sleep.
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Presumed sleep. It is not fun caring for an incapacitated person. The dirty little thing is that we Americans so value "contribution" that the only contribution worthy of giving is financial, economic. Caring for someone else is a "drain". "Two people die". This is all rationalization for consuming selfishness. "In sickness and in health" seems like a long-forgotten notion when faced with the realities of forever.

Americans didn't like the government meddling in the Schiavo case, so say polls. That's because nearly every family has faced a similar situation. Nearly every family has had a doctor recommend removal of life-saving devices (or in Terri's case, food). Nearly every family has followed that recommendation. No one that I know likes to view him or herself as a murderer. Kinda uncomfortable to even read it.

Should severely injured people not be treated with life-saving procedures at all to save the moral morass? Just imagine all the soldiers from the War in Iraq who would be left for dead. Starting out in a coma, losing limbs, clinging to life by the tiniest of threads. Some pontificators have implied that death would be preferable to this sort of life. I'm guessing they have never faced death. It's amazing, that will to live thing when facing the possible ceasing of even the saddest, most pathetic (as some would define it) life.

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So, I want to live, if it ever comes to that sort of decision. Maybe it's my aforementioned optimism or just wishful thinking or old-fashioned hope, but I believe cures will come, if only we wait long enough. If history is any indication, doctors make years of stupid treatment choices before overwhelming evidence and decades of dogma get changed. They love their little beliefs. Most cherished beliefs of all suit them economically, socially or patient-management wise.

Dumb dogma: tonsillectomies, lobotomies, blood-letting, HRT, knee scopes, and this doesn't even touch the dumb medication dogma. That list is too long to start.

Doctors know next to nothing about what constitutes alive or dead or the place in between. I don't want them deciding my fate. This one case confirms that choice at least.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

As posting with Dr screen name those that read are making the unfortunate assumption you have some knowledge and accreditation on a subject.

In may you posted, on Dr. Helen's Blog, this ignorant offensive comment regarding bipolar disorder in children:
"The bi-polar people seem to lack this ability. They enjoy the la-la land. It is self-reinforcing. Even the depression has a pay-off--everyone else must jump through hoops for the person."

The fact that a self proclaimed educated individual would call any group in this derogatory manner only displays your extreme biggotry.

No one is jumping hoops for me, I am not in "la la land", and NAMI and their Stigma-Buster campaign fully agrees.

Dr. Melissa said...

I am not a psychologist, nor have I claimed to be one. That does not preclude me from having an opinion.

What your comment has to do with comatose states and consciousness, I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

A couple months ago, an editorial in WSJ's Online Journal Blog included this line:

"'Persistent Vegetative State' -- the magic words that cause the relatives to pull the plug immediately or risk the accusations of being Right Wing Fundamentalist Christians."