In case you missed the news, a little boy with cerebral palsy who suffered cardiac arrest and was subsequently determined to be in a “persistent vegetative state”, appears to be recovering thanks to a treatment using his own umbilical cord blood cells. From the story:
After the cord blood therapy, the patient, however, recovered relatively quickly. Within two months, the spasticity decreased significantly. He was able to see, sit, smile, and to speak simple words again. Forty months after treatment, the child was able to eat independently, walk with assistance, and form four-word sentences. “Of course, on the basis of these results, we cannot clearly say what the cause of the recovery is,” Jensen says. “It is, however, very difficult to explain these remarkable effects by purely symptomatic treatment during active rehabilitation.”
Two things that this case should make us think about:
1. The effectiveness of ethically derived stem cells. This doesn’t necessarily constitute a cure, but it’s progress for sure and certainly more than we can say for cells that require the destruction of tiny human beings.
2. That a PVS diagnosis, often used to justify killing patients by no longer giving them nutrition and hydration, is often misdiagnosed. In fact, recent studies have found that over 40% of those diagnosed to be in a PVS are not. Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, has more on that.