After 15 years in a vegetative state, nerve stimulation restores consciousness

Medical Xpress

A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness after neurosurgeons implanted a vagus nerve stimulator into his chest. The findings reported in Current Biology on September 25 show that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)—a treatment already in use for epilepsy and depression—can help to restore consciousness even after many years in a vegetative state.

The outcome challenges the general belief that disorders of consciousness that persist for longer than 12 months are irreversible, the researchers say. . . [Full text]

Corazzol and Lio et al.  Current Biology “Restoring consciousness with vagus nerve stimulation.” DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.060

Validity of diagnosis of “persistent vegetative state” in question

Tests of a patient diagnosed as having been in a “persistent vegetative state” for twelve years following a car crash have demonstrated that he is self-aware and capable of mentally responding to communication from caregivers.  The tests were performed using an fMRI machine. Medical staff had refused to accept his parents’ assertions to the same effect.  Observations since the scan have continued to support the diagnosis of “persistent vegetative state,” so it appears that current diagnostic standards are in question. [BBC]

Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration should be normative

Catherine Constable of the New York University School of Medicine has published a journal article advocating that patients diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) should be killed by starvation and dehydration unless their families insist that they receive assisted nutrition and hydration.

Constable, C. (2012), Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration for Patiens in a Permanent Vegetative State: Changing Tack. Bioethics, 26: 157–163