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I was reading a story last week, about a new method of stimulating the brain of ‘brain dead’ patients, in the hope of verifying whether they can be pulled from the life support or not. The basic principle appears to be that the brain is more active, when two similar words are spoken (such as hear and here), making the brain do more processing and create a measurable spike.

While I think it’s a wonderful way to detect if someone is still alive, it again raised for me my own concerns about a patient who is in a vegetative state. After all, if you are responding to stimulation to a certain level of awareness, can you imagine what a torturous existence that would be? Everything dark, unable to move; this ultimate prison sentence, is something I certainly would never want to endure myself.

I am digressing a little because my main point is, how could you continue someones existence if they requested it all be over? The ability to gesture in a single spike of brainwave, the desire for the torture to stop and we currently cannot do that. Euthanasia has long been argued and fought over but we still restrict the right of a mature person to decide, that their pain and suffering is pointless and the space could be made for a new life. Should we really force someone to live in this way, after knowing that they are conscious, albeit in a small way?

Of course the old comparisons with animals will always come up; you would have your pet put down due to sickness and it’s called ‘an act of kindness’. If we are to continue this practice, then maybe it should be renamed to its human counterpart and be called an act of execution. I am still left wondering where the act of kindness is, in leaving someone sentenced to a life of solitary confinement, within their own mind.

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