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A growing number of studies show that a significant proportion of patients, who meet the clinical criteria for the diagnosis of the vegetative state (VS), demonstrate evidence of covert awareness through successful performance of neuroimaging tasks. Despite these important advances, the day-to-day life experiences of any such patient remain unknown. This presents a major challenge for optimizing the patient's standard of care and quality of life (QoL). We describe a patient who, following emergence from a state of complete behavioral unresponsiveness and a clinical diagnosis of VS, reported rich memories of his experience during this time. This case demonstrates the potential for a sophisticated mental life enabled by preserved memory in a proportion of patients who, similarly, are thought to be unconscious. Therefore, it presents an important opportunity to examine the implications for patient QoL and standard of care, both during the period of presumed unconsciousness and after recovery.

Original publication




Journal article


Camb Q Healthc Ethics

Publication Date





501 - 510


covert awareness, disorders of consciousness, memory, preserved cognition, quality of life, recovery, standard of care, vegetative state, Humans, Neuroimaging, Persistent Vegetative State, Quality of Life