Population of totally locked-in patients (July 15th 2012) Population of totally locked-in patients (July 15th 2012)

Adrian M Owen the 46 year old British neuroscientist has discovered a way to use brain scans to communicate with people previously written off as unreachable. David Cyranoski in an article published on Nature.com describes how he is attempting to make his methods available in a clinic environment. Cyranoski states “Currently, there are tens of thousands of people in a vegetative state in the United States alone. Owen reckons that up to 20% of them are capable of communicating; they just don’t have a way to do so. “What we’re seeing here is a population of totally locked-in patients” …Owen now wants to put his technique into the hands of clinicians and family members. … Even if a person in a vegetative state is ‘found’, there is no guarantee that he or she will later be able to return a normal life. Owen nevertheless insists that “clarifying” a patient’s state of consciousness helps families to deal with the tragedy. “They want to know what the diagnosis really is so that they can move on and deal with that. Doubt and uncertainty are always bad things.” …Owen’s methods raise more difficult dilemmas. One is whether they should influence a family’s or clinician’s decision to end a life. …Even more ethically fraught is whether the question should be put to the patients themselves. …Owen hopes one day to ask patients that most difficult of questions, but says that new ethical and legal frameworks will be needed.”


Inspired by Nature.com ow.ly/c4ZZ9 image source Simon Strangeways ow.ly/c4ZTp