Neurostimulation and the Minimally Conscious State
Bioethics 2008 July; 22(6): 337-345
Neurostimulation to restore cognitive and physical functions is an innovative and promising technique for treating patients with severe brain injury that has resulted in a minimally conscious state (MCS). The technique may involve electrical stimulation of the central thalamus, which has extensive projections to the cerebral cortex. Yet it is unclear whether an improvement in neurological functions would result in a net benefit for these patients. Quality-of-life measurements would be necessary to determine whether any benefit of neurostimulation outweighed any harm in their response to different degrees of cognitive and physical disability. These measures could also indicate whether the technique could be ethically justified and whether surrogates could give proxy consent to its use on brain-injured patients.
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