In the hot debates that surrounded the Schiavo case, many ferociously attacked the religious defenders of her right to life, arguing that everyone knew there was no possibility of recovery. But the Guardian now reports miraculous results in patients in a persistent vegetative state who were given a sleeping pill known here as Ambien. No one knows why this sleeping pill awakes this people and permits them to communicate, but it does.
""We have always been told there is no recovery from persistent vegetative state — doctors can only make a sufferer's last days as painless as possible. But is that really the truth? Across three continents, severely brain—damaged patients are awake and talking after taking ... a sleeping pill. And no one is more baffled than the GP who made the breakthrough. Steve Boggan witnesses these 'strange and wonderful' rebirths.
For three years, Riaan Bolton has lain motionless, his eyes open but unseeing. After a devastating car crash doctors said he would never again see or speak or hear. Now his mother, Johanna, dissolves a pill in a little water on a teaspoon and forces it gently into his mouth. Within half an hour, as if a switch has been flicked in his brain, Riaan looks around his home in the South African town of Kimberley and says, "Hello." Shortly after his accident, Johanna had turned down the option of letting him die.
Three hundred miles away, Louis Viljoen, a young man who had once been cruelly described by a doctor as "a cabbage", greets me with a mischievous smile and a streetwise four—move handshake. Until he took the pill, he too was supposed to be in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state.
Across the Atlantic in the United States, George Melendez, who is also brain—damaged, has lain twitching and moaning as if in agony for years, causing his parents unbearable grief. He, too, is given this little tablet and again, it's as if a light comes on. His father asks him if he is, indeed, in pain. "No," George smiles, and his family burst into tears.(more)"
Terry Schiavo, of course, will never be able to take Ambien.
Clarice Feldman 9 12 06