Survey Says Patients 'Locked In' Paralyzed Body Are Still Happy

Mar 16, 2011



It may be hard to imagine being locked into your body, fully conscious but with every muscle paralyzed except for the muscles in the eyes and still be happy, but a new survey shows that most patients with the rare disorder called “Locked In Syndrome” are happy.

French researchers conducted a survey of 91 members of the French Association for Locked In Syndrome, as reported in the BMJ Journal, a journal for medical professionals.  The lead researcher of the team told Science Daily, “That some locked-in syndrome patients self-report happiness may suggest they have succeeded in adapting to their condition of extreme disability.”

Locked In Syndrome is a rare neurological condition caused by traumatic brain injury or severe spinal injuries in which patients are paralyzed in nearly all voluntary muscle groups. Patients with Locked In Syndrome usually retain all cognitive function, despite the fact that they are paralyzed and cannot perform functions such as chewing, swallowing or speaking.

The common perception is that patients with this rare condition would be candidates for assisted suicide, but the results of the study show that, while some patients would consider euthanasia, the majority of patients with Locked In Syndrome are content. The new study shows that 72% of respondents were happy. Researchers also found that the longer a patient had been living with the condition, the more likely they were to be happy.

The minority of Locked In Syndrome patients who said that they were unhappy cited limitations on movement and social interaction as reasons for their depression. Many of these unhappy respondents said they would prefer not to be resuscitated.

The study, performed by a team led by Doctor Steven Laureys from the Coma Science Group from the Belgium University Hospital of Liege, is the largest study of its kind ever conducted. Patients responded to questionnaires by blinking; questions assessed their emotional state, their views on assisted suicide and their quality of life. The findings of this new study could help caretakers and medical professionals find ways to improve the quality of life for paralyzed patients in the future.


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AMS Vans provides news about issues that are important to people with disabilities, their loved ones, disability advocates and their friends.

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