How valid is the comparison made between the brain of Karen Anne Quinlan and Terri Schiavo? The neuropathologist makes the comparison in terms of weight. I’ve already discussed the effects of dehydration here.
But are they comparable in terms of brain damage? I think that an arguement can be made that they are not. It all boils down to the Thalamus. The greatest damage to Quinlan’s brain was to the thalamus (she had some intact cortex). The conclusion was made that:
The findings in Karen Quinlan’s brain suggested that the thalamus played a more crucial role in consciousness and awareness than was previously thought.
What about Terri’s thalamus? On page 4 of the neuropathologist’s report it says:
In the thalamus, the most medial portions were relatively preserved (from the frontal cortex).
When the thalamus was examined microscopically, damage was definitely detected–though not as much damage as was done to the basal ganglia. The bottom line is that Terri’s thalamus suffered damage to a degree–but there is no indication from the neuropathologist that it was damage as severe as Quinlan’s. The pathologist had the opportunity to say that Terri’s thalamus was as damaged as Quinlan’s when he compared the weight of the brain–but didn’t. He just compared the weight.
Does weight really matter as much as the nature of the damage?