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This article provides an ethical analysis of the U.S. practice guideline update on disorders of consciousness. Our analysis focuses on the guideline’s recommendations regarding the use of investigational neuroimaging methods to assess brain-injured patients. Complex and multifaceted ethical issues have emerged because these methods alter the clinical understanding of consciousness. We address issues of false hope, patient suffering, and cost. We argue that, in spite of these concerns, there is significant benefit to using neuroimaging to assess brain-injured patients in most cases.


© 2019 The Authors. Bioethics published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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Peterson, A, Owen, AM, Karlawish, J. Alive inside. Bioethics. 2020; 34: 295– 305.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License