What is human consciousness, and how does this define what it means to be a unique person? Does society have a moral responsibility to individuals who are in a minimally conscious state, to help them achieve their potential?
In working as a recreation therapist every day with families and patients struggling with acute brain injuries, I found the book Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness by Joseph J. Fins extremely helpful in understanding the process of healing in the brain, and the moral implications for how our society treats persons with brain injuries.
Compared to other injuries, such as a broken hip, the brain takes a long time to heal. Recent medical advances have shown that it may take up to 12 months for a patient with traumatic brain injury to progress from a persistent vegetative state to a minimally conscious state, where they begin to communicate and respond to words and environmental stimuli. Yet the current system discharges people into nursing homes with reduced access to rehabilitative therapy, if they do not show measurable progress within a much shorter time period.
Dr. Fins makes an elegant case that persons in a minimally conscious state have human rights and are entitled to be treated as persons, with dignity, and opportunities for therapy and living a meaningful life.
Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness by Joseph J. Fins. Check it out here.