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  October 8, 2007   •   VOL. 45, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA

articles list

A Final Goodbye to St. Joseph the Worker School

GRIP's homeless shelter at risk of closing

Parish expansion in Pleasanton

Waiting to die, she prayed, survived Rwanda genocide

Fr. Donald Hudson
Sr. Marietta Conrardy, CSJ

Catholic Charities USA decries veto of SCHIP bill

'Reclaiming Fatherhood' movement helps men touched by abortion

Vatican says food, water must be provided to vegetative patients

Diagnosing persistent vegetative state not exact

Vatican official tells U.N. that climate change demands a cooperative international strategy

Church workers in Brazil wary of ethanol boom

Maryknoll's work in North Korea diocese honored

New online survey asks Catholics to rate quality of singing in church


Diagnosing persistent vegetative state not exact

CNS graphic/Emily Thompson

A spokesman for the institute said it does not keep statistics on how many patients are in a persistent vegetative state in the United States at any given time. Estimates from other sources, however, put the number somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000.

Dr. John Collins Harvey, a physician and moral theologian who is a senior research scholar at Georgetown University’s Center for Clinical Bioethics, puts the figure at the upper end of that range.

Diagnosis of persistent vegetative state is far from an exact science. Some patients considered to be in a persistent vegetative state have recovered cognitive function, although most in the medical community would attribute those cases to an initial misdiagnosis.

“There is no test to specifically diagnose vegetative state,” says the Brain Injury Association of America on its Web site. “The diagnosis is made only by repetitive neurobehavioral assessments.”

The first use of the term “persistent vegetative state” is credited to Bryan Jennett of Scotland and Fred Plum of the United States in a 1972 article in the British medical journal Lancet; they defined it as a state of “wakefulness without awareness.”

Over the years, various people in the medical community have expressed a preference for other terms — “continuing vegetative state,” “permanent vegetative state” or simply “vegetative state,” with no modifier.

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