An expert contends that the medical community needs to rethink its definition of “persistent vegetative state,” (PVS) and change its approach to its victims.
Severely brain-damaged patients are commonly misdiagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, according to Dr. Peter Saunders, who serves as campaign director for the Care Not Killing Alliance in the United Kingdom.
He pointed out that research shows that four in 10 people thought to be unconscious are actually aware of what is going on, but cannot respond.
Alex Schadenberg, who heads the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, described this condition in greater detail.
“These are people who have what you call a “locked-in syndrome,” or their injury is to the part of the brain that makes it impossible for them to respond to you, but by testing, we can now prove that, in fact, they're hearing everything you're saying,” Schadenberg explained. “They can tell by their brain waves that these people can respond to you – perhaps not vocally or physically, but they do respond to questions with their brain.”
Too often, physicians and families lose hope, and their family member is dehydrated and starved to death – which Schadenberg says is inhumane.
“You couldn't kill a dog this way,” he insisted. “If you killed a dog this way, you could go to jail, but oh, because that human being has some cognitive disability – or might have had a car accident and isn't responding – therefore, we should kill them by dehydration. To me, that's a horrific concept.”
Food and hydration is not medical treatment – it is necessary to live.
Dr. Saunders contends that the PVS diagnosis should be dropped, and agues that doctors should deal with patients’ pain so that they can live.