Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

The Perilous Vegetative State

Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

The Perilous Vegetative State

Article excerpt

10 J. AM. PHYSICIANS & SURGEONS 35 (Summer 2005).

Persistent vegetative state (PVS) is one of the most devastating diagnoses that patients and their families face. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is all too common. Various studies report rates of misdiagnosis ranging from 18 to 43 percent. One of the most common errors was failure of the physician to take into account that the patient was either blind or had severe visual impairment. Patients who are blind (often due to neurological damage), of course, are not capable of visual tracking.

The cognitive abilities of some patients who have been misdiagnosed as having PVS are astounding. A review article on PVS discussed findings: "The level of cognitive functioning present in this misdiagnosed group at the time of discharge was considerable: Sixty percent were oriented in time, place, and person; 75 percent were able to recall a name after 15 minutes delay; 69 percent were able to carry out simple mental arithmetic; 75 percent were able to generate words to communicate their needs; and 86 percent were able to make choices about their daily social activities. …

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