Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The wake up pill

I've been tracking the use of this blog with Google Analytics and was interested to see that several people stumbling across it had been looking for information on the ethics of coma. As I've mentioned before ethics is about how we look after the vulnerable - and those in comas are vulnerable because they are unable to tell us about themselves and their wishes.

One recent coma story covered here was the women whose family fought for her not to be given Zolpidem to wake her up. Today the Telegraph reports on a story of a young woman who has been woken by Zolpidem and seems to be recovering.

Looking at the pictures of this young woman, slumped in a wheel chair, it strikes me that we move on to a second area of ethics - care of the disabled and issues around quality of life. What does it mean to have quality of life? How can it be defined and measured? Is it enough not to suffer or should there be more to it than that?

This ties in, too, to the debate on abortion. Some abortions are carried out because the child will be disabled. How badly disabled must one be in order for life not to be worth living? I think of the range of cases - from the young girl in Ireland and was carrying a anencephalic child (that's a child with most of its head missing, in lay terms) to the vicar who asked the police to prosecute in a case where a child was aborted after 24 weeks for cleft palate.

Abortion is a complex issue. The BBC provides a page on ethical issues around abortion. Organisations on different sides of the debate include the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children , British Pregnancy Advisory Service the Catholic Church in England and Wales and Marie Stopes International.

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