“Unresponsive Wakefulness,” Explained Simply
It’s a simple reality that many patients who are not actively dying are nonetheless described as facing “end of life” issues, often simply due to physical or cognitive disabilities.
This is particularly true for patients diagnosed with “Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome,” the terminology doctors and patient advocates increasingly prefer to the more pejorative “Persistent Vegetative State” language — though both describe patients with diminished autonomy.
Why would one’s disabilities cause some medical challenges to be termed “end of life” issues? Our modern, utilitarian-minded culture judges one’s “quality of life” by asking “What can you do?” And if it’s judged that you can’t “do” enough, your “quality of life” is said to be “poor” and what for others would be considered basic health issues become strangely re-characterized as “end of life” issues.