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February 13 2013

Is Anybody in There? Searching for Consciousness in an Injured Brain


Terry Wallis showed only fleeting hints of consciousness for 19 years after he suffered a brain injury in a road accident. But then, in 2003, at age 39, he began to speak. It started with “Mom,” and then “Pepsi,” but soon he was slowly stringing sentences together and holding down his end of a conversation.

Far too often, patients like Wallis are given up for gone, left to languish in nursing homes where no one bothers with physical therapy or even to check for glimmers of regained consciousness, says Joseph Fins, a medical ethicist at Weill Cornell Medical College.

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