Diagnosing Consciousness: Neuroimaging, Law, and the Vegetative State
Article first published online: 21 JUN 2010
© 2010 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Volume 38, Issue 2, pages 374–385, Summer 2010
How to Cite
Fisher, C. E. and Appelbaum, P. S. (2010), Diagnosing Consciousness: Neuroimaging, Law, and the Vegetative State. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38: 374–385. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2010.00496.x
- Issue published online: 21 JUN 2010
- Article first published online: 21 JUN 2010
In this paper, we review recent neuroimaging investigations of disorders of consciousness and different disciplines' understanding of consciousness itself. We consider potential tests of consciousness, their legal significance, and how they map onto broader themes in U.S. statutory law pertaining to advance directives and surrogate decision-making. In the process, we outline a taxonomy of themes to illustrate and clarify the variance in state-law definitions of consciousness. Finally, we discuss broader scientific, ethical, and legal issues associated with the advent of neuroimaging for disorders of consciousness and conclude with policy recommendations that could help to mitigate confusion in this realm.