One of psychology's many unanswered questions is this: Is there a way to know someone still has conscious awareness? For a long time, doctors didn't have a way of proving someone was still self-aware. Now, Professor Adrian Owen believes he's found one. In Owen's method, he asks vegetative patients to imagine they're playing tennis while monitoring their neural activity. If he observes activity in the premotor cortex, correspondent to mental imagery, it is evidence of higher thought, something only a conscious person can do. Because of his findings, people previously thought to be brain dead have been shown to have a 'different' relationship with the outside world.
If you ask me, I'd say Owen doesn't prove a whole lot with this. Does being able to imagine yourself playing a game of tennis really qualify as consciousness? In my eyes, 'vegetative state' is a sealed fate that doesn't offer much of an existence. My consciousness questions aren't about holding onto it- they're about letting it go.
In 2005, I knew a man that was terminally ill. He took a turn for the worse, and doctors gave him a few weeks to live. This man fought his illness solely to help his family, that was his goal. The night of that diagnosis, he said to his wife, "I won't be able to help you any more," and passed away in his sleep a few hours later.
My question is this: How much power does the mind have over one's life? Can the will to fight really keep one alive? Can someone actually will their self to pass on?