This article addresses questions surrounding the minimally conscious state (MCS) from the perspective of adult clinical ethics. It describes the background of the MCS diagnosis, analyzes phenomenological ambiguities inherent in the nature of MCS, and raises epistemological concerns surrounding its diagnosis. It argues that in many cases, the burdens of prolonging treatment for people who have sustained certain severe brain injuries (SBI) outweigh the benefits, even if they are in or have the prospect of entering into MCS. It also argues that often such long-term measures are problematic from the perspective of patient preferences and stewardship of resources. Consequently, it suggests that the delineation of MCS as a distinct neurological state, along with research that seeks to expand how MCS is diagnosed, poses ethical difficulties for families and providers making decisions for affected patients.
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