Prompted by reports of new findings that certain brain-injured people may be more aware of their surroundings than heretofore thought, a national disability rights group is calling for a moratorium on the practice of withdrawing feeding tubes from patients like Terri Schindler-Schiavo, who are alleged to be in either a persistent vegetative or minimally conscious state.
Not Dead Yet, an Illinois-based organization, says no one should be starved or dehydrated to death unless tested under a protocol described in a study published in the February issue of the journal Neurology. Using special brain-imaging technology - magnetic resonance imaging - neuroscientists discovered high levels of brain activity in two men thought to be minimally conscious and essentially brain-dead. The MRI scans of the patients revealed that under certain stimuli their patterns of brain-activity were comparable to those of healthy people.
The group wants similar MRI tests performed on all cognitively disabled people whose lives are threatened by the removal of their feeding tubes.
"State-of-the-art testing for cognitive activity should be a minimum standard to be applied when someone's death is proposed," said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, in a statement.
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