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Right-to-die case highlights brain mysteries

 

 
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Researchers are still far from full understanding of vegetative states. The bitter wrangle over the fate of an American brain-damaged woman has thrown up both legal and ethical conundrums. But it has also highlighted neurologists’ dearth of knowledge about the brain’s workings after injury. Terri Schiavo’s case has raised scientific questions as well as inflaming […]

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Posted April 5, 2005 by thomasr

 
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Researchers are still far from full understanding of vegetative states.

The bitter wrangle over the fate of an American brain-damaged woman has thrown up both legal and ethical conundrums. But it has also highlighted neurologists’ dearth of knowledge about the brain’s workings after injury.

Terri Schiavo’s case has raised scientific questions as well as inflaming ethical debates.

Terri Schiavo was severely brain-damaged in 1990, after her heart temporarily stopped and starved her body of oxygen. Her husband has fought to allow her to die; her parents have opposed this on the grounds that she shows some signs of awareness and might recover.

The debate escalated dramatically after a Florida judge permitted Schiavo’s feeding tube to be removed last week, prompting President George W. Bush to sign emergency legislation ordering a review of her case. But on Tuesday 22 March, a federal judge turned down a request to have the tube reinserted.

Brain specialists say that those hoping for Schiavo’s recovery are ignoring medical consensus: that the widespread damage caused to her oxygen-deprived brain, and the length of time she has been sick, make the probability of any recuperation close to zero. “There is no evidence that there is anything we can do,” says neurologist Nicholas Schiff at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York.

Full Text at Nature


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