Scott Routley, thirty-nine years old, reports that he is not in pain. This seemingly mundane statement is more remarkable than you imagine:
It’s the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.
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 — who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario — 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.”
Of course, in our new cost-controlled world, they’re not about to let anybody else hang on for twelve years no matter how much brain activity might be present.