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Vienna | 2.11.2007 | 18:58 
God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

Chris, DaddyD, Zita

 
 
Reality Check: Being in a coma
  Back in 2005, the case of coma patient Terri Schiavo captivated the US after the feeding tube that kept her alive for 15 years was removed. Following months of listening to all the arguments about her quality of life and the prognosis for her future welfare, the decision about ending her life became a difficult and polarizing political issue.

The right to die debate is set to take another turn and maybe get even more complicated as new scientific experiments on long-term coma patients & treatments are showing surprise results.
 
 
Tennis
  Dr Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge used MRI scans on a 23-year-old woman in a so called vegetative state coma (someone who is unresponsive and unable to communicate). Dr Owen looked at the responses of the scans when she was told ?imagine playing a game of tennis?. He told FM4 that her scan matched the readouts of the brains of healthy volunteers asked to do the same thing.

So what does this suggest:
a) she was aware of herself consciously and her surroundings.
b) she could understand commands and could respond to them through brain activity, rather than through her own speech or movement.

Dr Owen is quick to stress that such tests are in their very early stages and much more work needs to be done. And since every coma patient is different such responses may not be the same from one person to the next. But in the meantime, the work of Dr Owen and his colleagues has caused widespread new discussions about coma patients across the world of neuro-science.

Cajolingwilhelm / Wikipedia
 
 
'Lazarus Pill'
  The second 'development' comes from South Africa. Louis Viljoen had been a cyclist. Out one day for a ride, he was hit by a truck and lapsed into a coma. Lying in his hospital bed one night he appeared restless with his hand grabbing at the mattress; so the nurses gave him a simple sleeping pill 'Zolpidem'. The result was that he came out of the permanent coma state and can now respond to simple questions. Taking note of this, other families from around the world have flown to South Africa to meet Louis and find out for themselves if Zolpidem and Louis's response are just a one-off or could there be implications for their loved ones in a coma.

Reality Check: Being in a Coma
can be heard Saturday (3.11.07) at 12 midday on FM4 or click here to download the podcast after the broadcast: fm4.orf.at/podcast

 
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