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When is a coma not?

It is commonly thought that when a person can’t respond to stimuli, they are in a coma.  Now, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, and since I’m not a medical doctor, and don’t play one on TV, I’m not going to go through the criteria doctors commonly use to test whether someone is in a comatose state.  What this little blurb is about though, is the fact that these criteria have recently been cast into doubt.  The reason why is because of a gentleman named Rom Houben, who after 23 years of doctors thinking he was comatose, found out during an MRI, that he was in fact conscious.  It turns out, that he was not just conscious during the MRI, but had been for the last 23 years.  Instead of being trapped in a coma, he was trapped in his own body; he was suffering from complete paralysis.  I’ll let you read the article over at Mail Online, but the gist is that Rom is now through therapy, starting to gain back some of his motor functions, and is as expected, more glad than anyone could ever imagine.

The debate that this brings back to life though, is patient rights; should family and friends have the right to ‘pull the plug’?  I can think of at least one point and counterpoint.  On the one hand, I certainly wouldn’t want to be trapped in my body like that, unable to communicate with anyone for all that time; I think I would go insane.  If they ever where able to communicate with me, I’d probably be a complete basket case.  On the other hand though, what if I would have started to recover soon after they stopped the feeding tube?  And another point entirely: should euthanasia be allowed in such a case.  If I weren’t going to recover in the time before I starve to death, I think that I should at least have the right to a quick and painless death, not starvation.

Read the full article here, at Mail Online.

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