I did a mild and very brief fisking of the Chicago Tribune's headline article today, here, but there's another page one article today that ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks Terri is a "vegetable" who ought to be starved to death.
The article, by Judith Graham, looks at what science knows about brain damage.
The challenge for physicians lies in discerning random reflexive behavior from intentional response, which may look very similar on the surface.
Several studies have documented high rates of misdiagnosis. In one 1996 British Medical Journal report, 43 percent of patients admitted to a London hospital brain-injury unit were found to have been wrongly classified as being in a vegetative state. Other accounts have put misdiagnosis rates at about 18 percent....
What's more, the extent of brain functions in at least some minimally conscious patients may be more significant than experts had thought, according to new research published last month in the journal Neurology.
Two men who were minimally conscious underwent sophisticated brain scans--called functional magnetic resonance imaging--while listening to family members read narratives about past experiences. In one case, a sister spoke of their childhood and toasts at her wedding. Their scans were then compared to those of seven healthy men and women who underwent similar simulation.
Results showed that activity in the brain's language process centers were virtually the same for both groups, indicating higher-level brain circuitry had remained remarkably intact for the minimally conscious men.
"We were taken aback," said Dr. Joy Hirsch, director of the Functional MRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. "It was not what we expected."(emphasis mine)