Quit Calling Them “Vegetables!” Study Shows Patients in PVS State Show Awareness

Opinion   |   Bobby Schindler   |   Dec 23, 2013   |   2:24PM   |   Washington, DC

How many of these news reports do we need to read about patients who are wrongly diagnosed as being in a so-called persistent vegetative state (PVS) before we eliminate this dangerous, unscientific and completely subjective diagnosis? I’m getting tired writing about it.

Our brain injured are being killed because of it, not to mention the prejudices that exist against these persons by labeling them as “vegetables” as a result of this bogus and dehumanizing diagnosis.

In yet another finding, this time out of Tel Aviv University, researchers found those who were purportedly in a PVS showed some level of awareness. This contradicts the PVS definition that says a person in this condition has no awareness and/or is unable to communicate. From the story, “First-of-Its-Kind Experiment Reveals Patients in Vegetative State Might Have Emotional Connection to Familiar Faces”:

“We showed that patients in a vegetative state can react differently to different stimuli in the environment depending on their emotional value,” said Dr. Haggai Sharon with Tel Aviv University’s Functional Brain Center, according to American Friends of Tel Aviv University. “It’s not a generic thing; it’s personal and autobiographical. We engaged the person, the individual, inside the patient.”

Over the past several years there has been a steady stream of research that is discovering how persons diagnosed as being in a PVS are, in fact, able to communicate at some level. It was as far back as 2006 when our organization, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network issued its first press release on this deceptive PVS diagnosis and its need to be rejected, when research found similar results regarding patients wrongly diagnosed as being in a PVS.

For families who are caring for these persons, these finding are hugely significant, as it was for the family of Scott Routley when it was found that he was able to communicate with his parents as to whether or not he was in pain after physicians thought he was in PVS and unable to respond. And I recently wrote about a two-year old named L.B. who physicians believed would never improve from his PVS condition, only to be proven wrong when he responded to adult stem cell treatment, emerging from his so-called PVS condition.

All of these new brain studies and their results, particularly when it comes to catastrophic injuries to the brain, demonstrate how science is improving when it comes to understanding the brain, brain injury and subsequent treatment protocols. So much so, that one can only guess what the future holds for these persons and why there is reason to be encouraged.

Tragically, most people do not realize when a physician determines someone is in a PVS, it can become a death sentence for them – both figuratively and literally. Indeed, when diagnosed as “PVS” and therefore deemed as having no “quality of life”, funding to help them receive rehab is essentially cut-off by insurance companies and/or Medicare/Medicaid. And because families cannot afford the rehab services their family member needs, often times these persons are abandoned and warehoused with no chance to recover.

Ironically, rehabilitation and therapy is most vital to these individuals during this time so that their quality of life can be improved, otherwise the potential for their recovery will be forever compromised. However, even more disturbing is that the decision to kill these vulnerable persons (many times by starvation and dehydration) can be easily made and happens every single day. Over the years, because of the aggressive nature of those infatuated with seeing these people eliminated from existence, laws have been changed so that once they are diagnosed as PVS, these people can be legally killed; and it’s legal to kill these innocent souls in all 50 states.

Unfortunately, for these brain injured persons and the families who unconditionally love them and decide to take care of them, there really doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of passion when it comes to protecting their lives, let alone getting them the help they need and deserve.

Until the day comes when society sees the value in protecting the God given dignity of these persons, things will not change. In fact, it will get worse with the new health care system and with too many of those in the medical profession who, not only discriminate against these people, but who also loathe them.