When Does Consciousness Matter? Lessons from the Minimally Conscious State

American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 9 (1):5-15 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) fall into a different diagnostic category than patients in the more familiar vegetative states (VS). Not only are MCS patients conscious in some sense, they have a higher chance for recovery than VS patients. Because of these differences, we ostensibly have reason to provide MCS patients with care that goes beyond what we provide to patients with some VS patients. But how to justify this differential treatment? I argue we can’t justify it solely by looking to MCS patients’ actual levels of consciousness. We must look also to the ways in which these patients are potentially conscious. Specifically, I argue that certain sensible and well-regarded policy recommendations cannot be justified by looking solely to patients’ actual levels of consciousness, but that they can be justified by looking to patients’ potential for consciousness. Insofar then as we have prima facie reason to follow the recommendations, we also have prima facie reason to view the potential for consciousness as morally salient. If that is true, however, several important implications follow: first, if the potential for consciousness is morally salient, this translates into actual and pressing obligations to patients with disorders of consciousness generally. Second, if the potential for consciousness is morally salient, this has implications that go beyond our obligations to patients with disorders of consciousness. Indeed, if the potential for consciousness is morally salient, this adds an important layer of complexity to the normative landscape, a layer we may not have sufficiently noticed before.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,621

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Brain damage and the moral significance of consciousness.Guy Kahane & Julian Savulescu - 2009 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 34 (1):6-26.
The Vegetative State and the Science of Consciousness.Nicholas Shea & Tim Bayne - 2010 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61 (3):459-484.
Interactive capacity, decisional capacity, and a dilemma for surrogates.Vanessa Carbonell - 2013 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 4 (4):36-37.

Analytics

Added to PP
2017-12-03

Downloads
51 (#273,921)

6 months
6 (#199,414)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Joseph Vukov
Loyola University, Chicago

Citations of this work

Actual physical potentiality for consciousness.Andrew And Alexander Fingelkurts - 2018 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 9 (1):24-25.
Consciousness as a Capability.Peter M. Koch - 2018 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 9 (1):25-26.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Animal Liberation.Bill Puka & Peter Singer - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (4):557.
Defining Death.William Charlton - 2022 - New Blackfriars 103 (1107):607-621.
Animal Rights and Human Obligations.Tom Regan & Peter Singer - 1978 - Philosophy 53 (206):576-577.
Why Potentiality Matters.Jim Stone - 1987 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 17 (4):815-829.
Are DCD Donors Dead?Don Marquis - 2010 - Hastings Center Report 40 (3):24-31.

View all 14 references / Add more references