Another version of the story has this seemingly amazing piece of information:
"This was a landmark moment for us because for the first time, a patient can actually tell us information, important information about how they're feeling and their current situation," said lead researcher Dr. Adrian Owen on Tuesday.http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Canadian+vegetative+state+uses+imagination+tell+doctors+pain+video/7541875/story.html
A simple google search finds that the same doctor has made this claim before, using the same methods:
That was in 2006, and in 2007 several responses to the article criticized his methods, conclusion, and lack of attention to alternate explanations for his "findings." I found that previous article and its critics in about five minutes (slowed down only by having to register with Sciencemag.org). How hard did the BBC reporter look? Or the news organizations that have been repeating it? When a story is too good to be true, shouldn't they assume that maybe it isn't?
But what really irks me is that the doctor asked the patient is he was in pain. And guess what? He's not! I'm sure the answer is at least as reliable as a Ouiji board.
But will he ask if they guy wants to continue to live in that state? No, of course not.
The coward couldn't ask the most important question, because if the guy said "no," the doctor's ambitions get launched into a whole other sphere, one that is contrary to the his wishes. After all, if these guys really want to die, then he's out of a job.
Or, he'll have to start proving that his patients lack the psychological fitness to decide to end their lives, which would call into question whether they're able to consent to participate in his research. He's no ethicist or psychologist, so the patient ceases to be his, one way or another.
I'll be keeping an eye out for his article that is supposedly forthcoming, and I'll request it from my library's interlibrary loan department if I have to, because I want to know why he's been researching the same thing for years without ever coming to the point of asking the patients if they want to be allowed to die.
Shouldn't he ask that question eventually? If I were in that state, that would be the first question I'd want them to ask me.