Science magazine recently published a report on a young woman devastated by a car crash in England. For five months after the accident, tests showed no signs of awareness. Doctors declared her vegetative. Then, scientists put her in a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) scanner, which tracks blood flow to different parts of the brain. They asked her to imagine playing tennis and walking through her home. The scan lit up with telltale patterns of language, movement, and navigation indistinguishable from the brains of healthy people. Something was awake inside that woman’s skull. Without the scanner, no one but her would have known.
The analysis in Science concludes that she has a "rich mental life" but may not be "conscious." That does that mean? Is she awake inside her skull, though incapable of outward manifestation of awareness?
It is both interesting and horrifying to contemplate the potential ramificaitons of this in brain injury litigation. In the past doctors have been quite confident in reassuring us that patients in what appeared to be a chronic vegetative state had no awareness of their situation. Now, with an FMRI test, we may be able to show what appears to be conscious mental activity in the victim of a relatively recent traumatic brain injury. I’d hate to be on the defense side of a case when that video is played for a jury.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.