In recent years, rapid technological developments in the field of neuroimaging have provided several new methods for revealing thoughts, actions and intentions based solely on the pattern of activity that is observed in the brain. In specialized centres, these methods are now being employed routinely to assess residual cognition, detect consciousness and even communicate with some behaviorally non-responsive patients who clinically appear to be comatose or in a vegetative state. In this article, we consider some of the ethical issues raised by these developments and the profound implications they have for clinical care, diagnosis, prognosis and medical-legal decision-making after severe brain injury.

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