I recently finished watching a documentary called "coma," talking about the process of differentiating patients in a vegetative state (who are not aware of their surroundings and have no "consciousness") and those with minimal consciouness (likely have brain damages that affect them, but maintain some level of consciousness to their surroundings). And you also see a family struggling to accept the possibility that their love one is not there anymore. The research by Adrian Owen might provide some insight into those that would have previusly been deemed vegetative. Now the tough questions come - Would it make it easier for the family to know that "someone' is still in there somewhere? Or would it make it more difficult? Are patients then able to give consent and make decisions? Would leagl procedures be able to catch up to this new technology, if it is to make widely available in the future?
(btw, trailer to the documentary is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWKAm3zrorE)
"Adrian Owen has found a way to use brain scans to communicate with people previously written off as unreachable."