Saturday, March 19, 2005

life & death among the vegetables...

A hip ex-liberal turned conservative who calls herself Raven writes about her experiences as an LNA (Licensed Nursing Assistant) in places where people live out their lives in "persistent vegetative state."
Side rant: Look that term up some time and see what kind of medical consensus there is about it -- none exists. I've read journal articles on PVS and can tell you that it's a hot potato of a political designation, not an accepted medical condition. The range of behaviors exhibited by patients diagnosed with PVS is so variable that researchers cannot pin down what it is and isn't. Some professionals argue that PVS does not exist at all. It's kind of like Victorian women and their "vapors". Or even Freud and his "penis envy?"
Anyway, back to Raven.

Read this enlightening article about her experiences caring for PVS folks.

She says, among other things:
When people think about COMA’S, they often assume the victim is unconscious and unaware of their surroundings. This is true in many cases, as I have described here before. I work mainly with younger people, but do “float” over to the Adult Brain Injury unit quite a bit. I see lots of Terry’s there. People like her are indeed alive; they are living breathing humans who have survived an often tragic event. Are they who they used to be? No. Will they ever be who they used to be? Probably not. Do they respond to stimuli? Yes. Do they respond to people? Yes. Do they talk? Not usually, but they make eye contact and smile and laugh. And they reach out to you. They are human beings, who tend to like the company of others and…well…like to be alive. Terry smiles a lot, and she seems happy almost all the time. She is not hooked up to any machines.

"But I wouldn't want to live that way!" Why don't we just admit that it's hard to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves? Bottom line, I think that's what's going on.

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