Christa Lilly, the Colorado woman diagnosed with persistent vegetative state who woke up and began talking, has relapsed into an unresponsive state. Her mother promises to care for her no matter what. Good. Lilly’s moral worth and intrinsic value as a human being–a sister of all humanity–does not depend on her ability to interact. Would that more of us could find it within ourselves to love the most helpless among us unconditionally rather than set marginalizing parameters which, in effect, throw them out of the moral community.
The brain is a fascinating organ, which we don’t understand. Add the UK case in which a purportedly unconscious woman has been found through brain scans to be interactive, and it becomes clear that we should treat the seemingly unconscious as we would conscious people. Whatever we do, when visiting an unconscious person, assume they can hear every word we say.