An extraordinary brain study concludes that a woman in a vegetative state is aware of herself. It's a dangerous claim that could throw families and physicians into turmoil.

By Robert Burton

Sept. 25, 2007 | In a recent article in the Archives of Neurology, a team of British and Belgian neuroscientists describe a clinically unconscious accident victim who can, on command, imagine herself playing tennis and walking around her house. By showing that her functional brain imaging studies (fMRI) are indistinguishable from those of healthy volunteers performing the same mental tasks, the researchers claim that the young woman's fMRI "confirmed beyond any doubt that she was consciously aware of herself and her surroundings, and was willfully following instructions given to her, despite her diagnosis of a vegetative state."

Their extraordinary conclusions are beyond provocative; they raise profound questions about the very notion of consciousness. What's more, they could throw thousands of families and doctors into utter turmoil. As with the Terry Schiavo controversy, patient advocacy groups, self-serving lawyers and politicians with personal agendas could use the study's stamp of certainty as a given.


Lots and lots of fuel for the fires of the hate-filled "See? I'm Right because My Invisible Friend Said so and You're Going to Hell" crowd.


"Yet the study's conclusions are not beyond a doubt. There are plenty of questions about whether this young woman is conscious and capable of choice.

Right, Evolution is ONLY a theory to those people, but you know this is going to be greeted as absolute indisputable straight-from-someone-in-the-sky FACT.

And we'll all view this in terms of our own possible situation, some little voice inside saying "Pleeese! Don't pull the plug!" And that's something to think about.

But as to the religious side of it?

When THOSE sanctimonious know-it-alls stand up against killing men, women, children, and animals while waging war, then I'll give them some respect.

Until then, to me they're just hypocrites who insist their friend in the sky is Omniscient but somehow, THEY know what said pal is thinking and why and what "HE" wants (assuming, as the late Robert Anton Wilson asked nearly 50 years ago in The Realist -- "Does God Have a Willy?" and if not, then why is God considered a "HE").

And if a person believes in eternal bliss of heaven, then why would it be so horrible to HAVE the plug pulled?

Still, I've always wondered if there was anyone in there.

You too, right?


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