Neurology: When Does the Brain Go Blank?

Much of the ammunition in the battle over Terri Schiavo's fate has been medical language that's fairly new in the public realm. The terms can mean one thing to experts and another thing entirely when wielded by passionate partisans in the debate. On the basis of interviews with specialists in the fields of neurology and palliative care, we offer answers to some of the most perplexing questions:

•WHAT IS A PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE? People who suffer enough brain damage that they are unaware of themselves or their surroundings, but still demonstrate certain reflexes and are able to breathe and pump blood...

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