Minds Apart: Severe Brain Injury and Health Policy

Award Year:
Joseph Fins
Disabilities, Public Health Strategies
The two very public court cases of Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo have colored much of the debate about the persistent vegetative state and futile medical treatment. But another recent case, that of Terry Wallis, a man with severe brain damage who began to speak after spending 19 years in a nursing home in a minimally conscious state, provides a different example - one of possible improvement, although not full recovery. Joseph J. Fins, M.D. tackles a host of thorny problems and policy issues raised by severe brain injury, a leading cause of disability among young people. These include obstacles to accurate diagnosis, coverage for life-long medical and rehabilitation services, research in subjects who lack decision-making capacity, impact of caregiving on families, and a general lack of scientific interest among medical professionals. Fins' project, Minds Apart: Severe Brain Injury and Health Policy, aims to provide information about the effects of brain injury, promote a public dialogue about the needs of these patients and their families, and explore options for improving care and broadening clinical research.