Human Exceptionalism

Another Conscious “Vegetable”

As regular readers of this blog know, I loathe the V-word used for human beings instead of peas. 

So, why did I deploy it in my headline? Because another case of a supposedly unconscious man, found to be  actually aware, has apparently been discovered–and many would have denigrated him as nothing but a V before he went into the scanning machine. From the Nature News story:

A dozen volunteers watched Alfred Hitchcock for science while lying motionless in a magnetic-resonance scanner. Another participant, a man who has lived in a vegetative state for 16 years, showed brain activity remarkably similar to that of the healthy volunteers — suggesting that plot structure had an impact on him. The study is published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

What we don’t know about the brain, the mind, and their workings should make us humble about presuming to dismiss anyone as unconscious and unaware.

And it should make us loathe to dehydrate these helpless people to death. 

P.S. The Nature reporter used the term “brain dead” as a synonym for diagnosed as unconscious. They are not the same thing! A science publication writer should know better. 

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