Consider the Coma

Five features on the state between life and death.
5 stories

As transplanting organs from coma patients becomes increasingly common, ethicists are having to answer a tricky question, writes John Sanford: "When are you dead?"

Jerome Groopman explores what scanning technology reveals about people who are in vegetative states. "For decades, doctors assumed that patients who have been diagnosed as vegetative lack any capacity for conscious thought," he writes. As it turns out, however, coming up with a working definition of consciousness is a lot trickier than most medical professionals thought.

When they put Scott Macartney in a coma after a skiing accident doctors didn't know if he would live. He did. But could he regain his prowess as a world class skier even as he feared getting hurt again? Jennifer Kahn has the answer. Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story of Lucky Jim, the accident victim turned coma patient turned Iron Man.

And in "Conquering the Coma," Malcolm Gladwell posed this question: What does it take to save the life of a coma patient?" His answer: Not a miracle.

From the Web

Lucky Jim

The most amazing thing happened to Jim MacLaren one day while running an Ironman race. He lost his body.
May 2002
From the Web

Conquering the Coma

What does it take to save the life of a coma patient like the Central Park victim? Not a miracle, as her family and doctor explain.

Jul 1996
From the Web

Scott Macartney’s Comeback

Two years ago at Kitzbühel, American downhiller Scott Macartney survived a high-speed crash that would’ve ended most skiing careers. He immediately began plotting a comeback, drawing on deep stores of willpower and courage to overcome a unique kind of terror that every racer knows. They even have a name for it: the Fear.

Nov 2009
From the Web

When Are You Dead?

Resurgent form of organ transplantation raises a new question.

From the Web

Silent Minds

What scanning techniques are revealing about vegetative patients.

Oct 2007