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Logo of jmedethJournal of Medical EthicsVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Med Ethics. Aug 1995; 21(4): 205–208.
PMCID: PMC1376713

The proof of the vegetable: a commentary on medical futility.


Patients with 'persistent vegetative state' (PVS) are often cited in the discussions of ethicists as examples of human beings who are unconscious and do not experience life, and a number of theoretical and practical recommendations have been made on that basis. This article examines the evidence and the theoretical rationale for the belief that people with PVS are unconscious and finds them wanting. This conclusion is related to the practice of the discipline of ethics.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Mitchell KR, Kerridge IH, Lovat TJ. Medical futility, treatment withdrawal and the persistent vegetative state. J Med Ethics. 1993 Jun;19(2):71–76. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Cefalo RC, Engelhardt HT., Jr The use of fetal and anencephalic tissue for transplantation. J Med Philos. 1989 Feb;14(1):25–43. [PubMed]
  • Levin HS, Saydjari C, Eisenberg HM, Foulkes M, Marshall LF, Ruff RM, Jane JA, Marmarou A. Vegetative state after closed-head injury. A Traumatic Coma Data Bank Report. Arch Neurol. 1991 Jun;48(6):580–585. [PubMed]

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