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September 08, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-08

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Friday, September 8, 2006 - The Michigan Daily - 5

Medicial ethics
minefield just got
more complicated

r President Bush waves to a crowd after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday in Washington. Bush returned from Atlanta, Ga.,
where he made remarks on the war on terror.
'Bush focus on terror for
midterms carries risk

C But approach may be best.
bet for GOP to maintain
control of Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is
casting the war on global terrorism as the cen-
tral issue of the midterm elections. But it's a
risky political strategy.
The approach carries reminders of failures
in Iraq, prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay,
warrantless wiretapping at home and Osama
bin Laden's endurance abroad.
"We learned the lessons of Sept. 11," Bush
said yesterday in the latest in a new round of
speeches on the subject. "We're working to
connect the dots to stop the terrorists from
hurting America again."
GOP strategists hope the new focus, includ-
ing efforts by Republicans in Congress to press
for votes on a string of anti-terror initiatives,
will burnish Bush's image as commander in
chief in responding to the 9/11 attacks and help
to divert attention from Iraq.
But Democrats were quick to portray the
president's recent statements - including his
acknowledgment Wednesday of a secret CIA
prison system and the movement of 14 high-
profile detainees to Guantanamo - as an
admission of failure.

"Republicans have ignored the lessons of
9/11 and failed to make America as safe as we
can and should be," Senate Democratic leader
Harry Reid of Nevada said yesterday. "They
want to stay the course in the face of failure.
We won't. We'll change course in Iraq."
With the electorate in a sour and generally
anti-incumbent mood, majority-party Republi-
cans have little choice but to run on the war
against terrorism, suggest activists in both par-
Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster and strate-
gist who helped orchestrate the "Contract
with America" campaign in 1994 that helped
Republicans seize control of both House and
Senate, sees parallels between then and now
-but in reverse since Republicans now control
both chambers.
"There is a deep desire for change and a
consistent widespread rejection of the status
quo," he said.
Republicans have little choice but to make
the war on terrorism their central theme, Luntz
said. "They have to, because this is their one
area of strength. This goes to the core differ-
ence between the two parties and their visions.
If you can't communicate a core difference,
what can you do?"
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman noted
that the one-time commanding Republican

edge over Democrats on national security "has
been dramatically diminished."
"The conclusion of a lot of polls is that peo-
ple in this country do not feel safer and they
feel that George Bush's policies in Iraq and
elsewhere have increased the likelihood of ter-
rorism against the United States, not decreased
it," Mellman said.
Six in 10 in a recent AP-Ipsos poll said there
will be more terrorism in the United States
because the U.S. went to war in Iraq. A CNN
poll published earlier this week asked the pub-
lic if the war in Iraq was part of the war on
terrorism. Fifty-three percent said "no;" 45
percent said "yes."
With two months to go before congressional
elections that will determine whether Repub-
licans can extend their control of Congress,
Americans seem concerned over the threat of
terrorism but ambivalent over assigning credit
- or blame - a lot better shape than where
we were before;' Grant Miller, 28, a car sales-
man and Democrat said over lunch in Crest-
wood, Ky.
Fellow Kentuckian Tim Cox, 46, gave the
president solid marks for combatting terrorism,
which he said was his biggest present concern.
"We're doing what we should be," the factory
worker said while stopping by the post office in
PeeWee Valley, Ky.

Vegetative patient's
brain shows signs of
Advanced brain scanning uncov-
ered startling signs of awareness in
a woman in a vegetative state, Brit-
ish scientists reported yesterday
- a finding that complicates one
of medicine's ethical minefields.
The work is sure to elicit pleas
from families desperate to know if
loved ones deemed beyond medi-
cal help have brain activity that
doctors don't suspect. "Can he or
she hear and understand me?" is a
universal question.
It's far too soon to raise hopes,
the British researchers and U.S.
brain specialists stress. There's no
way to know if this 23-year-old
woman, brain-damaged over a year
ago, will recover, and therefore if
her brain activity meant anything
medically. Her brain injury may
not be typical of patients in a veg-
etative state.
Scientists don't even agree on
whether the woman had some real
awareness - she seemed to follow,
mentally, certain commands - or
if her brain was responding more
automatically to speech.
"This is just one patient. The
result in one patient does not tell
us whether any other patient will
show similar results, nor whether
this result will have any bearing
on her," cautioned neuroscientist
Adrian Owen of Britain's Medical
Research Council. He led the novel
brain-scanning experiment, report-
ed in the journal Science.
The work does raise calls for
more research in this difficult-to-
study population - because of
the tantalizing prospect of one day
learning how to predict whose brain
is more likely to recover, and maybe
even tailoring rehabilitation.
"It raises the questions of ethics
and experience of these patients, I
think, to a new level," said neuro-
scientist Joy Hirsch of New York's

Columbia University Medical Cen-
ter. "It raises the tension about how
we treat these patients."
But, "making medical deci-
sions based on this information
at this point in time we say is not
appropriate," warned Hirsch, who
is conducting similar research and
already receives "just heartwrench-
ing" requests for help.
The woman was injured in a car
crash. By the time Owen scanned
her brain five months later, she had
been pronounced in a vegetative
state - physically unresponsive to
a battery of tests. A small percent-
age of people make some recovery
after spending a short period in a
vegetative state.
Those who don't improve after
a longer period are classified as
in a "persistent vegetative state,"
such as the late Terry Schiavo, who
became a subject of political con-
troversy over the question of taking
such patients off life support. An
autopsy showed she had irrevers-
ible brain damage.
Doctors use MRI machines and
other scanners to examine struc-
tural brain injuries. To see how the
brain actually fires - what areas
are activated during different pro-
cesses - requires more advanced
imaging called functional MRI, or
Owen and colleagues contend
their fMRI experiment showed
the car-crash victim had some pre-
served conscious awareness despite
her vegetative state.
How could they tell? First, they
checked that she could process
speech. Upon being told "there was
milk and sugar in the coffee," the
fMRI showed brain regions react-
ing the same in the woman and in
healthy volunteers.
Then came the big test. Owen
told the woman to perform a
mental task - to imagine her-
self playing tennis and walking
through her house. Motor-control
regions of her brain lit up like
they did in the healthy people he
compared with her.

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