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Neuro-palliative care and disorders of consciousness 

Neuro-palliative care and disorders of consciousness
Neuro-palliative care and disorders of consciousness

Joseph J. Fins

and Barbara Pohl

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date: 16 May 2022

Neuro-palliative care is an important resource for patients and families confronting severe brain injury. Although many clinicians equate brain injury with certain death or futility, survivors have substantial needs that might be met by palliative care expertise. This chapter suggests that the boundaries of palliative medicine include those with severe brain injury, most notably those in the minimally conscious state, and that with this nosological expansion practitioners of palliative care reflect carefully on often nihilistic attitudes directed towards patients with disorders of consciousness. This chapter establishes how to better meet the needs of these patients and their surrogates, reviewing definitional criteria for the vegetative and minimally conscious states, highlighting advances in diagnostic and therapeutic interventions (such as neuroimaging, drugs, and deep brain stimulation) and considering what neuroprosthetic devices tell us of the capacity of patients to experience-and functionally communicate-pain, distress, and suffering.

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