Center Assistant Professor Dr. Devan Stahl attended the Galveston Brain Injury Conference on May 4-5 in Galveston, Texas. She was part of a work group that considered how to handle requests to withdraw/withhold life-sustaining treatments from patients in minimally conscious states.
The group was divided into three tracks which considered the topic from the vantage points of the law, ethics, and clinicians. Dr. Stahl was part of the ethics group. The task of this group was to consider the most ethically relevant debates which may arise when considering whether or not to honor a request (either by a patient or surrogate) to end life-sustaining treatments. The group considered questions, such as diagnostic and prognostic uncertainty, the abilities of persons in minimally conscious states, well-being and quality of life, and the proper use of advance directives and surrogate decision making. The group intends to publish a series of articles which will describe the ethical challenges which arise in treating patients in minimally conscious states. Ultimately, the group hopes to enhance discussions about when it is appropriate to continue or withhold life-sustaining treatments for persons in minimally conscious states.