Legal and bioethical issues in chronic consciousness disorders

Rocco Salvatore Calabrò, Vincenzo Barone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Management of patients in unconscious state inevitably raises ethical and legal questions about the appropriate degree of life-sustaining treatment. Most ethical analyses conclude that the decision to treat aggressively or passively should be guided by reliable information about how the patient would wish to be treated in this condition, in accordance with the principles of patient-centred medicine. Once it is reliably established how the patient wished to be treated, it is within the standards of accepted medical practice to treat patients in vegetative state and minimally conscious state aggressively to permit them to live as long as possible, or to withhold life sustaining therapy, including artificial hydration and nutrition, to allow them to die. Disputes among family members over the nature of the patient's true wishes can be mediated by a hospital ethics committee and, if unresolved, referred to court for judicial review. The patient's prognosis for functional recovery is the main element in identifying the appropriate level of treatment, and should be stated clearly.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChronic Disorders of Consciousness: From Research to Clinical Practice
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9781626189409
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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