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March 16, 2020

Translating the Discovery of Covert Consciousness Into Clinical Practice

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
  • 2The Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Penn Memory Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • 4Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(5):541-542. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.0232

In conditions of prognostic uncertainty, neurointensivists and families often struggle to make decisions for unresponsive patients with brain injuries. However, a new study demonstrates that after brain injury electrophysiological assessment (electroencephalography [EEG]) has potential prognostic value.1 This could have profound implications for clinically and ethically consequential decisions, such as withdrawing life-sustaining treatment or managing potentially life-threatening events such as sepsis. Here, we outline 2 interrelated ethical considerations for neurointensivists who use these methods when communicating prognostic information to patients’ families.

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