Thanks to a medical breakthrough in France, which led to the partial awakening of a man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years, Church teaching on why all life is sacred has once again been validated by science.
The Guardian is reporting on the story of a 35-year-old man who spent the last 15 years in a vegetative state after suffering severe head injuries in a car accident. French researchers were able to “boost” the consciousness of the patient by planting a device in his chest that stimulates the vagus nerve which travels from the abdomen to the brain stem. Almost at once, the man started to flicker back into a state of consciousness. West Palm Beach auto attorney blog has taken this news to heart and has been prmoting the news actively on hs blog. This news means a world of possibilities for victims and families.
“He started to track objects with his eyes, began to stay awake while being read a story and his eyes opened wide in surprise when the examiner suddenly moved her face close to the patient’s. He could even respond to some simple requests, such as turning his head when asked – although this took about a minute,” The Guardian reports.
Dr. Angela Sirigu, who led the work at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, said: “He is still paralyzed, he cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware.”
After a month of daily vagal nerve stimulation, his dramatic improvement has defied all expectations, according to the team’s study which appeared in Current Biology.
At present, if a person remains in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) longer than 12 months, their life is considered to be over. And, as a result, these patients are often subjected to a horrible death – such as the one endured by Terri Schiavo in 2005 – when feeding tubes are discontinued, leaving the patient to die of malnutrition and dehydration.
This breakthrough is yet another reason why the deliberate killing of patients who are diagnosed with PVS should never be permitted.
“Never mind that some 40% of such diagnoses are erroneous. Never mind that some of these people may feel the agony of not eating or drinking if so misdiagnosed,” writes attorney and ethicist Wesley Smith. “Bioethics and law treat artificial nutrition and hydration as a medical treatment, and any medical treatment can be refused or withdrawn,”
Secular bioethicists argue that food and hydration should be withdrawn from these patients because the minimally conscious “may be in horror at their impaired condition or otherwise suffering.”
However, as Smith points out, a study of patients who appeared to be in a locked-in state – which is the appearance of complete unconsciousness but actually aware – found that most are “happy” and the majority do not want euthanasia.
This confirms what the Church has always taught – that persons in a PVS should be treated with the same respect that is due to any other human being.
“ . . . [T]he intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life,” wrote St. John Paul II.
“A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal.’ Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the clinical condition of a ‘vegetative state’ retain their human dignity in all its fullness.”
The wisdom of the world doesn’t see this reality because it will always be inferior to the wisdom of God. Even though Christian teaching on life is relegated to the sidelines or cast aside as “extremist,” it always proves itself to be true in the end.
“As the Divine Life takes up residence within us, we see the world from God’s perspective, and we find that everything in life is laden with supernatural value,” writes Johnnette Benkovic in her landmark study, Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life.
Regardless of who it is or what their condition, the Truth tells us that every person is of value simply because they were created by God.
Even to call them “vegetables” is a term that Smith calls “as denigrating and dehumanizing a racial epithet.”
As this research proceeds, he is urging the scientific community to “care for these seriously disabled patients–both apparently unconscious and conscious–as full and equal members of the moral community, and think twice before removing sustaining treatment that can only have one result; a protracted and perhaps, painful death.”
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