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Disability Group Calls For Suspension Of Feeding Tube Removals
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 23, 2005

FOREST PARK, ILLINOIS--Disability rights advocates have called for a national moratorium to stop doctors from removing feeding tubes from all people considered to be in a "persistent vegetative state" and who do not have an advance directive or durable power of attorney.

Not Dead Yet is calling for the action in response to research published earlier this month in the journal Neurology. Researchers at Cornell University's Weill Medical College and other locations used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brain activity of patients considered to be in "minimally conscious state" (MCS) as a result of brain injuries, and compare them with volunteers who had no brain injuries.

The scientists noted that, while the resting brain activity for those with brain damage was almost non-existent, when researchers played audio tapes of loved ones telling familiar stories and talking about shared experiences from the past, their brain activity jumped up to the same level as that of the subjects that had no brain injuries.

The study's authors suggested that people with such disabilities may be aware of their surroundings and can hear what is going on around them -- even though they may not be able to respond.

Not Dead Yet issued the call for a moratorium last week to keep feeding tubes from being withdrawn from people diagnosed in a "minimally conscious state" or "persistent vegetative state" -- such as Terri Schiavo -- until fMRI testing can be performed. It is hoped that the new technology will reduce the number of conscious people from being starved and dehydrated to death while they may be aware of what is happening.

"Given the current research regarding brain activity and misdiagnosis, it's a virtual certainty that countless people have been helpless to prevent their own deaths through starvation and dehydration," Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, said in a statement.

"There's an analogy to DNA evidence and the death penalty," Drake explained. "Here in Illinois, the staggering numbers of innocent and wrongly convicted people on Death Row resulted in a moratorium on the death penalty. Whether you agreed with the death penalty or not, everyone was forced to find ways to make sure no innocent person ended up on Death Row again. The same amount of concern should apply to medically induced deaths, in which the numbers far exceed the number of convicted people executed each year."

Related:
Abstract of study "MRI reveals large-scale network activation in minimally conscious patients" (Neurology)
http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/64/3/514
Not Dead Yet
http://www.notdeadyet.org

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