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CMAJ - July 14, 1998JAMC - le 14 juillet

CPR for patients in a persistent vegetative state?

CMAJ 1998;159:19

See response from: C. Weijer
Two of the major issues addressed in this editorial are worth amplifying. The first is the concept of whether a life is worth living. We must never accept the concept that any life is not worth living. Once we do, we are on a slippery slope. There is very little difference between someone who is in a vegetative state for 2 years and someone who is in a vegetative state for 2 years less a day. Once the principle of the sanctity of human life is ignored, there may be no stopping the trend: the religion of death becomes accepted.

The second issue concerns the controversy surrounding euthanasia, exemplified in the editorial by the example of an Orthodox Jew who believes in God. Human beings are not only body and soul, but also spirit. Unless this conceptualization is accepted we will never understand that even for someone in a PVS, the spirit still exists. We do not know whether or not such a person is receiving input through some of the senses. There have been reports of patients later able to describe in detail every word spoken in their presence while they were in a comatose state. Let us not play God. Let us maintain our traditional values and concepts. These values work.

William D. Gutowski, MD
Chilliwack, BC

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