Objectives: Patients with locked-in syndrome often self-report a higher quality of life than generally expected. This study reports third-person attitudes towards several salient issues on locked-in syndrome.

Methods: Close-ended survey among conference attendees from 33 European countries. Analysis included chi-square tests and logistic regressions.

Results: From the 3332 respondents (33% physicians, 18% other clinicians, 49% other professions; 47% religious), 90% agreed that patients with locked-in syndrome can feel pain. The majority (75%) disagreed with treatment withdrawal, but 56% did not wish to be kept alive if they imagined themselves in this condition (p < 0.001). Religious and southern Europeans opposed to treatment withdrawal more often than non-religious (p < 0.001) and participants from the North (p = 0.001). When the locked-in syndrome was compared to disorders of consciousness, more respondents endorsed that being in a chronic locked-in syndrome was worse than being in a vegetative state or minimally conscious state for patients (59%) than they thought for families (40%, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Personal characteristics mediate opinions about locked-in syndrome. The dissociation between personal preferences and general opinions underlie the difference in perspective in disability. Ethical responses to dilemmas involving patients with locked-in syndrome should consider the diverging ethical attitudes of stakeholders.


Demertzi, A., Jox, R., Racine, E., & Laureys, S. (2014). A european survey on attitudes towards pain and end-of-life issues in locked-in syndrome. Brain Injury, 28(9), 1209-15. doi:10.3109/02699052.2014.920526


For more information