Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The mystery of consciousness

Vegetative state.
I was talking to the attorney who drew up my will and my living will. My living will says that if someone decides I'm a vegetable they should sprinkle a little olive oil me, toss a pinch of salt and roast me.

Let me interject here that I read all day long, which is how I discovered the other day that if you eat purple potatoes you'll live forever. I suggest that if you think I've turned into a purple potato you could sprinkle me with etc.

So I told my attorney that I occasionally read articles about people who have been vegetables for years and suddenly aren't vegetables anymore. They wake up and find themselves covered in olive oil and salt.

He gave me one of those looks that my doctor gives me when I explain the purple potato thing.

Now I've got him! Look at this:
For the first time, doctors have used a type of nerve stimulation device to restore consciousness in a patient who spent 15 years in a vegetative state due to brain injury.
So there, genius.
Unlike a coma, in which a person is asleep and unresponsive, a patient in a vegetative state is awake, but shows no signs of awareness or cognitive function, even though they can have basic reflexes like blinking when startled. When a person has been in a vegetative state for more than 12 months after a traumatic brain injury, they are deemed to be in that state permanently and are highly unlikely to ever recover.
The patient in question was a 35-year-old man who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and had been in a vegetative state ever since. Once the electric current in the device reached 1 milliampere, the patient started showing consistent improvements "in general arousal, sustained attention, body motility and visual pursuit." The man began responding to simple orders that had been impossible before. For example, he could follow an object with his eyes and turn his head upon request.

I actually know someone in a condition like this, so it's serious business. And we as a society have debated it for years: Should we wait for them to come around? It happens. One man in a car accident regained his mental capacity after nearly 20 years.

Right now I'm only interested in one-upping my attorney. He's a good-looking, trustworthy, straight-arrow type. I suspect he was an Eagle Scout. I never liked him. I may send him some purple potatoes.

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