Monday, July 26, 2004

Science and Vatican Agree: Cognitively Disabled Can Recover

On September 11, 2001, while the world was riveted to the sight of two planes crashing into the World Trade Towers, a 60-year-old Missouri man was fighting for his life in a St. Louis hospital. Hit by a truck, he suffered massive head injuries and was flown to a state-of-the-art intensive care unit where doctors applied every ounce of their skill to save his life.

Three days later, he was still alive, but in a coma and breathing only with the aid of ventilator. Doctors saw little hope that he would recover and recommended that the family withdraw treatment and let him die. They refused.

"When the family wouldn't withdraw treatment, the hospital told them they had to put him somewhere else because he was never going to recover," said ex-trauma nurse and spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses, Nancy Valko. "They told the family he was going to die. He would never get off the ventilator. There was absolutely no chance of recovery."

The man was transferred to a nursing home, where patients are likely to receive little or no rehabilitative help. Thankfully, Valko visited him weekly and, together with the family, employed nothing more than a few simple sensory stimulation techniques she learned on the job. Ever so gradually, they began to see signs of awakening. "By Thanksgiving, the man was awake and talking and able to start eating by mouth," Valko said. "He's made a full recovery."

Valko is one of many in the medical profession who greeted the pope's recent statement about the ethical care of persons in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) with tears of joy rather than outright derision.
Good article...

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