“Vegetative” patient proves docs wrong, shows conscious thought

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain.

It’s the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.

His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting….

Mr. Routley suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago.

None of his physical assessments since then have shown any sign of awareness, or ability to communicate.

But the British neuroscientist Prof. Adrian Owen… said Mr. Routley was clearly not vegetative.

“Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.”

Prof. Owen said it was a groundbreaking moment.

“Asking a patient something important to them has been our aim for many years. In future we could ask what we could do to improve their quality of life. It could be simple things like the entertainment we provide or the times of day they are washed and fed.”

Scott Routley’s parents say they always thought he was conscious and could communicate by lifting a thumb or moving his eyes. But this has never been accepted by medical staff.

Prof, Bryan Young at University Hospital, London – Mr Routley’s neurologist for a decade – said the scan results overturned all the behavioural assessments that had been made over the years….

Observational assessments of Mr. Routley since he responded in the scanner have continued to suggest he is vegetative.

Prof. Young said medical textbooks would need to be updated to include Prof. Owen’s techniques.

~ Fergus Walsh, BBC News, November 12 (view amazing video at link)

16 thoughts on ““Vegetative” patient proves docs wrong, shows conscious thought”

  1. That’s really awesome that they are finding these things out. Maybe in the future even more advancements will be made and we can bring people back from these states.

    It really does sound like my personal hell, though, being trapped in a coma, unconscious and unable to move. I feel terrible for this guy. I have it in my living will or whatever those are called that they remove life support if I’m in a coma for over 3 months. I could not handle being trapped like that.


  2. @Jack
    “It really does sound like my personal hell, though, being trapped in a coma, unconscious and unable to move.”
    Oh man, have you ever heard of that state where your mind is awake but your body is still asleep and unable to move? you can see but your basically paralyzed, i’ve had that a few times and it is horrible!


  3. Yeah, night terrors, I still get those all the time and they are freaking awful. That’s part of the reason I think a coma where I am conscious is the scariest thing ever.


  4. Actually, that is known as sleep paralysis. It happens to me from time to time, so I did a little research on it. Night terrors are when you appear to be awake and alert and you thrash and mumble incoherently as if you are in a panic, but you are still in a state of sleep. People who have night terrors (ie. my sister) can’t remember them when they wake up.


  5. Watch out supreme court pretty soon science is going to learn that the preborn babies, the embryo, is a human being!

    Oh wait…science already knew that…so what happened???


  6. This story both makes me happy and breaks my heart.  I’m happy for Scott and for his family, who already knew that he was conscious but the doctors didn’t believe them.  And it breaks my heart for all those other supposedly PVS patients that were killed because the doctors thought they were lost causes. 


  7. I remember watching a program where they were talking to the mother of a young man who was (supposedly) in a PVS, and she was sitting next to his bed, talking about how they were considering taking him off life support…and he got tears in his eyes. Clearly, he could hear and understand what she was saying. I don’t know (I guess no one will ever know) if his tears were tears of relief- to being released from his current state,or tears of fear/sadness that they were going to let him die, and he couldn’t communicate that he didn’t WANT to die, but the fact that he couldn’t communicate his feelings one way or another was just heart-breaking. :(


  8. This story in a way is horrifying to me. What if Terri Schaivo was AWARE she was being starved to death! I’m reading a story about the USS Juneau and how survivors had to battle not only sharks but starvation and their tongues swelled up in their mouths from dehydration and thirst. I cannot imagine a worse horror. What if Terri was aware of every agonizing moment when she was denied any bit of comfort? It makes me tremble. 


  9. Why, O why, don`t YOU DEMAND better medicine? Much of `modern`, orthodox medical practice is bogus …. and I can prove it!  Will you listen?
    In 1981 I flew to Germany, and a small hospital run by Prof-med Franz Schmid.  He used a novel treatment called Cell Therapy.  Sheep-fetus’ are dissected into @92 parts, flash frozen and pulverized. Because all but two amino acids are identical between a human and a sheep, if this cell material is injected into a person: after the ‘sheep-amino acids are’ destroyed by the patient’s immune system), the remaining cell material rebuilds destroyed/non-operational material.
    Because the location of a cell be it heart, brain, kidney, skin, liver, etc. is determined by the sequence of the amino acids in the protein: it means that all that is needed are the cells to be injected, and the circulating blood will carry the repair material – to precisely where needed.
    Sorry Not profitable enough for American doctors?  Means what = not good enough for American citizens?
    PS — Prof Schmid died …. Will his ‘legacy die too?


  10. Sydney, of course Terri was aware and Michael committed court-assisted murder.

    BTW, the vigil outside her FL care center was the first national appearance of the ubiquitous red LIFE tape.  

    Terri Schaivo’s murder was a turning point for America. I hope and pray that Prof Owen’s profound discoveries and annihilation of the “PVS” excuse for euthanasia will change the national dialogue toward a LIFE-ward focus. This is only possible if we stand shoulder-to-shoulder against euthanasia and “assisted-suicide.” God alone is the Giver and Taker of all life. 


  11. Depression is common with many painful and chronic illnesses.  Of course it is reasonable to assume that paralysis or other states could make a patient quite depressed.  However, I don’t want anyone killing me by any deliberate means. 

    If I am paralyzed, I’d like to hope I would develop a much a higher conciousness.   I’ve read some amazing things about neuroplasticity and what the brain is capable of that is too complicated even for me to explain much less publicize to people in general.   For example, if you lose a hand, the part of the brain that used to keep track of your hand switches its use.  If you are blind and read braille, the part of the brain that keeps track of your index finger begins to expand into the areas of lesser used parts of the body, such as the pinky.  Our brains can and do change and develop into old age.  Yes, it’s most plastic when we’re young, but here’s the thing:  neural impulses might be harnessed in ways that we can’t imagine today. In the near future, paralyzed persons might be able to use more tools because we will have developed the technology to harness the potential of their brains and nervous systems.  Stephen Hawkings is one of the first to admit that when he was 100% healthy, he was under-utilizing his brain and taking his intellect for granted. 

    When we don’t know, we should err toward life, not death.  If you don’t have the technology to save, then just step aside and let nature take its course.  Don’t deliberately murder.   Many people in Europe are signing away their lives because of pressure from relatives and doctors.  Coersion makes it a murder conspiracy.  It’s not natural for a living creature to want to die.  It’s a malfunction to want to die.  People who are sick, injured, and depressed need help, not death.

    And Terri’s rotten husband could have simply divorced her to remarry.  He could have just walked away.  The ghoul.     


  12. At first I had the same reaction as you, Jack. This seems like torture to me, not being able to communicate with people, being confined to my bed with others doing basic care for me.
    But I wonder… people who’ve come out of comas don’t describe it that way, do they?
    And I also think that it demonstrates deep love and selflessness to care tenderly for someone, to treat them like they were communicating back to you when they can’t show their love back to you in the usual ways.
    The story in this post is a great reminder of how our lives are quite often dependant on others to some extent, even fully. Thank God that Scott Routley has people rallying for him and upholding the value of his life. I pray he makes a full and speedy recovery.

    I will never forget Terri Schiavo and her horrid death. Feminists especially let me
    down. Seems the prominent ones care for abortion and not much else when they stand by and watch a husband decide the death of his wife like that. She was not his property, he should not have been allowed to prevent her from recieving rehabilitative therapy, and her family should have been allowed to continue to care for her. The starving of Terri proved a very low point for women in our country.


  13. Terri Schiavo was the first person I thought of, too, when I read this piece.  Those who loved her did think she still understand what was happening around her, and they even observed some attempts at communication I seem to recall.  As Sydney wrote, what a horrible way to die!  How cruel our society is!


  14. Wouldn’t it be better to just humanely euthanize such people rather than letting them die by starving to death or dehydration? We get so hung up over definitions (when does life begin, who is a person, who isn’t, etc) that we don’t think in practicality. Who wants to be alive yet not alive? Judging from the comments, not many of you do…


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