Confucius held that for society to function in a healthy and orderly way, words must have their proper meanings. He understood that how we speak both reflects and influences how we think and act: unclear language both results from and leads to unclear thinking which results in confused action. A Waco Farmer, and I, have made the same point in regard to the present War and to politics in general. (Farmer offers some historical political examples here.)

For example, I do not use the term "vegetative state" to refer to a patient in a coma. I become disturbed when someone says of a coma patient--"he/she is just a vegetable." Humans are not vegetables. I think this term helps to dehumanize the one in the coma, making it easier for us to terminate care. [I am not arguing for using all available means to prolong life, but that is another post.]

This article from yesterday's Washington Post reports that scientists have discovered surprising brain activity in patients regarded as "vegetative." Evidently we will be needing new standards of testing, and perhaps new terms, for comatose people.