Things have been a bit quiet on the blog front over the last few weeks, partly due to half term break, mostly due to my school getting the dreaded call from OFSTED two days into the new term. I’m still recovering from the stress…
Anyway, in this post I’ll be flagging up a couple of stories that have been in the news over the last couple of weeks that should interest students studying Ethics and Philosophy.
Last Monday, there was an interesting news story about doctors using MRI scans to communicate with patients in a persistent vegetative state. The degree to which patients in PVS possess any type of awareness has been a matter of some controversy: one of the symptoms of PVS is an apparent lack of cognitive function. However, during this research, doctors were able to communicate with some patients in PVS by asking them to imagine certain situations (for example, playing tennis) while scanning their brain activity and comparing the results of these scans with those of healthy volunteers. In the most dramatic example one patient, Scott Routley, was able to tell his carers that he is not in any pain.
In the past, patients in a PVS such as Terri Schiavo and Tony Bland have had the feeding treatment that they depend upon to survive withdrawn at the request of their families. The results of the experiment may change the way we think about and care for patients with PVS, and perhaps even enable them to have a say in their own treatment.
You can watch a Panorama episode about the research here.
Also in the news last week was the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died at a hospital in Ireland after being refused an abortion. Ireland’s abortion laws are stricter than those of the UK, and while abortion is allowed in cases where the mother’s life is in danger (it is illegal in other circumstances) it seems that an abortion may have been refused because Savita’s unborn child still had a detectable heartbeat.
In the news this week is the imminent result of the Church of England’s vote on whether to allow women bishops.