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Coma and a Persistent Vegetative State Related to Medical Negligence

Mellino Law Firm

After a person has gone into a coma following injury or trauma, he or she may eventually come into what’s called a persistent vegetative state. This is a level of consciousness in which the patient is awake but may not have awareness of his or her surroundings and environment. The individual may have no cognitive or physical function, save for a few involuntary movements and actions.

If a coma or vegetative state is the result of a surgeon’s or doctor’s negligence, Ohio medical malpractice lawyers can help families pursue compensation for the costs of care that the victim now requires.

Symptoms of a Persistent Vegetative State

Once a patient has emerged from a coma, he or she may be in a vegetative state. This state may not be declared persistent, however, unless the individual remains in this level of consciousness for a certain amount of time, which is often considered more than a month.

In a persistent vegetative state, the patient may be unable to:

  • respond to or interact with the world and people around him/her;
  • express language;
  • feel pleasure or pain; and
  • intentionally respond to visual, auditory or tactile stimuli.

Typically, the individual will still be able to:

  • blink, open and move his/her eyes;
  • breathe independently;
  • have normal blood circulation;
  • experience cycles of sleeping and wakefulness;
  • smile, cry, grimace and laugh, although these may not be an emotional response;
  • track objects and movement with his/her eyes;
  • grip objects; and
  • make reflexive movements with limbs.

How Medical Negligence May Cause a Persistent Vegetative State

A coma and/or persistent vegetative state can be caused by a number of injuries and underlying conditions. Most commonly, they occur because of brain injuries or trauma to the head, as in a car accident.

In terms of medical negligence, errors involving anesthesia or brain surgery may lead to an injury and could cause the individual to enter a vegetative state. Failure to properly treat infection – such as meningitis or encephalitis – may also be considered negligent and could lead to injury to the brain resulting in a coma or vegetative state.

In general, any brain injury, whether it is traumatic or not, can lead to a coma or vegetative state if severe. Ohio medical malpractice lawyers in Cleveland will evaluate and present evidence of negligence if handling a malpractice claim for the victim and his or her family. This may include medical expert testimony.

Outlook and Treatment of a Persistent Vegetative State

The general outlook for a patient in this state depends largely on:

  • the type of injury or trauma the patient experienced;
  • his or her age; and
  • the length of time in a state of vegetation.

In most cases, the younger the patient, the more likely he or she will recover. While there is no true treatment for a persistent vegetative state, doctors and caregivers can continue to care for the patient and ensure his or her health.

Caregivers will focus on:

  • preventing infections;
  • keeping the body clean;
  • providing proper nutrition; and
  • providing physical therapy, if applicable.

Ohio medical malpractice lawyers can help Cleveland families recover compensation for these costs in a malpractice claim.

If a patient emerges from the vegetative state, he or she may do so gradually. Even then, it may be unlikely the patient will fully regain physical, cognitive and emotional abilities. If large areas of brain tissue have died, the likelihood of recovery from a vegetative state may be slim.


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