« The Wrongful Death Of Terri Schindler Schiavo | Main | Whose ethics? »

October 10, 2006

No Longer in a Permanent Vegetative State

Topics: The Truth About PVS

On Oct. 7, 2004, 9-year old Devon Rivers became sickened with a mysterious illness that left in a coma:

Eventually, he was moved to a pediatric nursing care center, where he received daily physical therapy that kept his muscles from atrophying and his joints from locking up.

Yet every time doctors checked on him, they had the same prognosis: Devon was in a persistent vegetative state, and it was doubtful that he would ever recover.

His family continued to care for him and after two years Devon began breathing on his own and has "awakened" from a PVS state.

Believe it or not, some bioethicists, including the euthanasia fanatics who sponsored Terri Schiavo's death via dehydration, believe that those in a PVS state are dead and want to experiment on them.

Yet, it should be noted that along with Devon many others have come out of a PVS state. Louis Viljoen awoke from a three year coma after he was administered a sleeping pill. Note that doctors had diagnosed Louis as being in a permanent vegetative state (PVS). They told his mother he would never recover.

Doctors gave Haleigh Poutre a death sentence by characterizing her as "virtually brain dead" and in a "permanent vegetative state". Less than three weeks later, the Massachusetts Department of Social Services pushed to remove Haleigh's feeding tube and respirator and won approval from the State Supreme Court to so. Despite her "hopeless" condition, and her status as "virtually brain dead", she began showing signs of improvement and was weaned off her ventilator. She is now in rehabilitation, able to eat scrambled eggs and cream of wheat, and has tapped out drum rhythms during physical therapy.

South African researchers, writing in the NeuroRehabilitation, showed effective treatment of three PVS patients through the administration of Zolpidem. (BBC Report here)

A study of 84 patients having a "firm diagnosis" of PVS which found that 41% regained consciousness by six months, 52% by three years:

  • Out of 40 patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, 17 (43%) were later found to be alert, aware, and often able to express a simple wish. The study is one of the largest, most sustained analyses of severely disabled people presumed to be incapable of conscious thinking, communication, or awareness of their surroundings. The author, London neurologist Dr. Keith Andrews, said, "It is disturbing to think that some patients who were aware had for several years been treated as being vegetative.

  • Studies show PVS patients feel pain -- indeed, a Univ. of Mich. neurologist, in one of the most complete studies, concluded that, when food and fluids are withdrawn [to impose death], the patient should be sedated.

  • A study of 84 patients with a "firm diagnosis" of PVS found that 41% regained consciousness by six months, 52% by three years. These statistics certainly discredit the terms "persistent" and "permanent".
In practice, the terms of PVS have become so elastic as to categorize Christine Busalacchi, a young Missouri woman, as PVS -- even though she said "Hi" to a doctor, made sounds to indicate which soap opera she wanted to watch, pushed buttons on a cassette recorder to play tapes and recognized her father on TV.

You might also check out the testimonials published at BlogsforTerri. Here are a few:

See also Legalized Killing: The PVS Diagnosis

Posted by tim at October 10, 2006 12:11 PM

Articles Related to The Truth About PVS: