What is locked-in syndrome?

Patients who are ‘locked in’ are conscious but paralysed following brain damage – for example after a stroke. They can usually communicate by using movements of the eyes or eyelids. The experience of locked-in syndrome has been described by a journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby in his book, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’, which was also made into a film. Another well-known individual with locked-in syndrome was Tony Nicklinson who brought a very important High Court case to allow a doctor to end his life without facing a charge of murder. He subsequently refused food and died of pneumonia six days later.

The key difference between locked-in syndrome and the vegetative or minimally conscious state is that someone with locked-in syndrome is mentally intact, as Derick Wade explains.

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What is the minimally conscious state?

A person who is 'minimally conscious' shows some evidence of awareness of themselves or their environment. It is also sometimes referred to as a 'low...

What is brain death?

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