Brain-Damaged Man “Awakened” After Six Years of Semi-Consciousness

By Elizabeth O’Brien

  NEW YORK, August 2, 2007 ( - A severely brain-damaged man who was in a minimally conscious state for six years has recently regained new levels of awareness and physical capabilities after receiving electrical brain implants.

  The unnamed 38-year old man had his head repeatedly kicked during a mugging in 1999 and was left unable to talk or move properly. In addition, he was kept alive by a feeding tube.

  In a study led by Dr. Nicholas Schiff of Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York, researchers conducted a treatment on him known as "deep brain stimulation." This is a medical procedure that has been frequently used for patients with Parkinson’s disease and depression. During the stimulation process, two metal electrodes are inserted deep within the brain, which then give off electrical impulses. The patient in question is the first of twelve patients to undergo the treatment as part of the study.

  In a seemingly miraculous recovery, the treatment stimulated parts of the man’s brain that were thought to be irrecoverable. As a consequence he can now watch a movie, drink from a cup, and say his parents’ name, NBC10 reports.

"My son can now eat or watch a movie without falling asleep," the patient’s mother said. "He can express pain. He can cry, and he can laugh. The most important part is he can say ‘Mommy’ and Pop.’"
  According to DailyHealth News, study co-investigator Joseph Giacino, associate director of neuropsychology at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, stated, "Hopefully, this will now begin to open doors that were closed up to this point."

  He continued, "There’s a very nihilistic view that when a brain is badly damaged there’s not much we can do to change that. We have a very tough time getting research funded because of the need to jump higher than most other research. By demonstrating that we did move the bar in this patient this late, we hope that it’s going to force people to revisit this somewhat nihilistic view."

  The same treatment was also used on Terri Schiavo, but its lack of success was allegedly on account of her highly deteriorated condition. In an official statement at Terri’s death, however, Terri’s family, the Schindler’s, referred to the opinion of Dr. William Cheshire, a neurologist from the Mayo Clinic, who agreed with them that Terri was "awake, aware, and at least minimally cognitive."

  While the man in the present case was still in a semi-conscious state, he sometimes opened his eyes, moved his thumb in response to questions, and according to some reports, shifted his limbs. In contrast, while Terri Schiavo was alive, her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, testified that their daughter "reacts to them with tears and smiles and moves her head."

  Similarly, Priests for Life director Father Frank Pavone, who visited Terri frequently while she dying, stated, "She was very responsive to me, she closed her eyes when I prayed with her she opened her eyes at the end of the prayer, she laughed at jokes, she returned the kisses of people who kissed her."

  Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director for Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told that in the case of Terri Schiavo, "she was dehydrated to death. They said she was in coma, but was she really? She was certainly brain-damaged, but she was treated as if she was a living corpse. We don’t know whether Terry would have recovered."

"We shouldn’t be giving up on these people," he continued. "We don’t know enough about the brain to consider them dead."

  Schadenberg concluded, "Society has to make a decision. Are we going to make a commitment to these most vulnerable people, or are going to treat them within cost-containment analysis?" If society makes the second choice, he said, the same thing will happen to the most vulnerable as happened to Terri Schiavo. "How hard-hearted a society are we becoming?" he asked.

  Read Related LifeSiteNews coverage:

  Recovered "Vegetative State" Patient Kate Adamson Speaks Before Schiavo Rally

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