Disorders of consciousness and neuroethics: why rights must come to mind (The Daniel W. Foster, M.D., Visiting Lectureship in Medical Ethics)
Fins, Joseph J.
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[Note: The slide presentation and video are not available from this event.] Over the past two decades neuroimaging has revealed the possibility of covert consciousness in patients once thought vegetative. This knowledge coupled with the ability of drugs, devices and neuroprosthetics to restore functional communication in patients with disorders of consciousness has the potential to reintegrate patients into the nexus of family and community. A worthy scientific pursuit, I will argue that this effort is a moral imperative which links respect for persons with the reemergence of voice out of covert consciousness. As I describe in my recently published book, "Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics and the Struggle for Consciousness" (Cambridge University Press, 2015), this is a human rights issue for a population too long marginalized. For rights to come to mind, patients will need greater access to medical care and research, the skilled engagement of the clinical community, and fuller protections under of the law.