The Newsroom    Published Monday, Mar. 20, 2006, 2:31 PM
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For doctors, drug-induced comas often a 'leap of faith'

Houston Chronicle (Internet / Print) 03/19/06 http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/3731766.html Despite great advances in modern medicine, there are still few options for treating severe brain injuries such as those caused by a blow to the head, a stroke or constant seizures. Physicians can try draining fluid or raising the head of the patient's bed to alleviate potentially fatal swelling. If those efforts fail, they sometimes decide to push patients to the precipice, as close to brain death as humanly possible. The procedure, called medically induced coma, slows brain activity almost to a stop by pumping huge doses of barbiturates into the patient. The goal is to give the injured brain a rest in the hope that it will heal itself. "We're clear about what is therapy and we're clear about what counts as research, but experimentation falls in between the two," said Ronald Carson, an ethicist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "There are risks involved in doing something, as well as risks involved in doing nothing," Carson said. "We don't know what the person is going to be like at the other end." (This article has continued to appear throughout the United States and abroad.)



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