Moving beyond end of life: The ethics of disorders of consciousness in an age of discovery and uncertainty

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Humanities


In a time of assured hopelessness, the vegetative state inspired the right to die movement. In the current age of discovery, diagnostic and prognostic uncertainty about disorders of consciousness prevails, while hopelessness is no longer certain. The social, ethical, and legal discourses about these disorders must move beyond end-of-life and right to die issues, to engage with the new uncertainty, and reconsider the status of these patients and the rights that follow from restoring them to humanity and personhood. A less speculative, more empirically informed approach to the ethics of disorders of consciousness-an ethics of uncertainty-is needed.

Publication Title

Brain Function and Responsiveness in Disorders of Consciousness