Imagine being aware, but not able to communicate; able to hear, but not able to respond; able to feel pain, but not able to say "stop hurting me." There are people that, according to research and personal testimony, are conscious in what is know as a Persistent Vegetative State. They can hear those around them, they feel pain, and they know they are being starved of food when their feding tube is removed.
New research has shown that there may be hope for these people. Using brain scans to show brain activity in response to external stimuli, doctors have shown that the brains of some vegetative patients respond in identical ways to healthy test control subjects with respect to questioning, stumulus, and creative imagination techniques. This is the first step to possibly opening the door for future communication with people in a Persistent Vegetative State.
While the research is still in trial stages, it should make us think about just exactly how much these patients understand, and whether we should be assuming that they feel no pain. The videos below are of a personal story, and a news report from CNN about the topic.