Human Exceptionalism

60 MINUTES Good Program on “Awakenings”

60 Minutes and Anderson Cooper did a good job tonight on the hope that now clearly exists for at least some patients in a minimally conscious state. The show focused on the Ambien awakenings, which we have discussed here many times at SHS and in my articles. I was also pleased to note that Anderson had a doctor acknowledge that about 40% of patients diagnosed as persistent vegetative state, are wrongly so identified.

But true to form among the media, Cooper went out of his way to distinguish Terri Schiavo from any of these cases–even though her autopsy said that her brain was consistent with either a PVS or a MCS. Moreover, these patients were given the opportunity to benefit from experimental therapies. Terri was denied such potentially life-saving care–as well as normal rehabilitation attempts–because Michael Schivo adamantly refused and Judge Greer stubbornly and repeatedly denied permission for Terri to receive such care–even though there would have been be no harm in trying and some experts said she could be improved.

Another point Cooper should have noted is the awful truth that we dehydrate to death both conscious and unconscious people in all 50 states based in this country–not based on medical decisions but on subjective and potentially discriminatory quality of life determinations. Tackling that topic in a hard-hitting way would be a worthy topic for 60 Minutes–albeit one that would compel them to be politically incorrect, which epitomizing the Establishment, is not the show’s strong suit.

Still, all in all, congratulations to Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes for a good and important segment.

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