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Terri Schiavo Question

r norman rsn_ at _comcast.net
Mon Apr 4 14:23:18 EST 2005

On Mon, 4 Apr 2005 14:55:31 -0400, "Glen M. Sizemore"
<gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com> wrote:

>There is, however, a larger issue here in that terms like "consciousness,"
>"awareness," etc. raise sticky conceptual issues. If Shiavo would have shown
>reflexive movements to [what most of us would call] "painful stimuli" would
>we say that she is aware of pain? Most would say "no," but reflexes (not
>simple ones though) are often what we examine when we look at "pain" in
>nonhuman animals. Notice that I am not arguing that Shiavo is "conscious" or
>"aware" but, rather that difficult conceptual issues are raised. My actual
>view regarding pain (and my wife and I have written a paper on this topic)
>is that we use "pain language" when we observe reflexive behavior, escape
>and avoidance, as well as first-person reports (i.e., we say someone is in
>pain when they tell us they are). We also use "pain language" when we
>observe pain responses in ourselves. Non-human animals show reflexes and
>escape and avoidance, but they are not aware of their own pain responses,
>though they can be made aware in that sense.

An excellent point, which is exactly why I used the terms "conscious"
and "awareness" in talking about responding to stimuli.  Isolated
spinal cords can respond to complex stimuli with complex motor
patterns that are appropriately directed towards the stimulus and
different types of stimuli elicit different responses, including those
closely related to what a conscious human would call pain.  The real
problem is decided when higher brain functions are sufficiently lost
so that the "person" is essentially dead although the living cells in
the body still are capable of reacting.

I strongly believe that the video and the photos are enormously
misleading in that they are carefully selected to cause naive
onlookers to think that there is consciousness or awareness.  From the
news reports I have been able to glean, it seems that trained medical
examiners who had actually examined her concluded that there was none.

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