Northeast Center for Special Care to Co-sponsor International Think Tank to Build Consensus on Coma and Other Impairments of Consciousness

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Northeast Center for Special Care presents the Impairments of Consciousness working meeting on Coma and Coma-like states that will bring together leaders from all sides of the issue April 21-23, 2006.

The Impairments of Consciousness working meeting on Coma and Coma-like states will bring together leaders from all sides of the issue April 21-23 as the first step of an international project to help shape the future of the assessment, treatment, and research surrounding altered states of consciousness. International experts will be sponsored guests of Northeast Center for Special Care and National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation (NBIRTT), for three days at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. Medline, GSR Consulting, and Mid Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union are supporters of Northeast Center for Special Care and have provided other amenities for the Impairments of Consciousness participants.

The participants’ purpose will be to identify innovative and tangible solutions to the complex issues of assessment and treatment of and research on individuals recovering from coma and other impairments of consciousness, while firmly placing the needs of the patient at the center of the discussion.

Impairments of Consciousness is a three-day working meeting with the purpose to review the latest research on altered states of consciousness and to prepare a consensus statement that will be distributed to the National Institute of Health, United States Congress and Worldwide. The peer group includes noted clinicians, researchers and policy-makers from around the world. Experts from national and international health care organizations, including Northeast Center for Special Care will participate in the working meeting along with attendees from internationally recognized institutions of higher learning. The United States Department of Defense and the Center for Disease Control will also be represented.

Dr. George Zitnay, a member of the World Health Organization Director General’s Panel of Experts in Neurotrauma said, “The growing number of patients remaining in a vegetative state on a world wide basis is becoming a social and ethical dilemma demanding answers on a scientific and political level if progress is to be made. I am encouraged by the work of this group.”

This working meeting will be highly participatory and nonpartisan. Attendees will build innovative recommendations and prepare their report in concert.

A schedule of presentations to introduce the issues is prepared for the first day of the meeting. ”The State of the Science: What we know and what we need to know” will be presented Dr. Joseph T. Giacino from the New Jersey Neuroscience Institute. Dr. John Whyte from Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute will lead discussion of this presentation. From New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Center, Dr. Joseph J. Fins will present a talk entitled “Putting Disorders of Consciousness into a Social Context: Ethical Reflections After Schiavo.” Dr. Steve Laureys, of Universite de Liege in Belgium, will present “European Guidelines” and Dr. Jose Leon Carrion of the University of Seville will lead the follow-up discussion. Jean Berube, JD and Dr. George Zitnay of National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation will discuss the “Impediments to Scientific Research and Treatment.”

On day two, the work begins. Meeting attendees will identify priority solutions that will serve as the focus of a series of policy reform recommendations that will form around the highest priorities identified. Day three of the meeting has been reserved for discussion of next steps and to draft an outline for the report to the National Institute of Health and United States Congress.

The blending of science, social context, and advocacy contained within the final report on Impairments of Consciousness will only have been made possible by international participation in a think tank format. This landmark event will move the compassion-based recovery and care of the hundreds of thousands of individuals recovering from Impairments of Consciousness, worldwide, toward best possible outcomes.

In a message of welcome to the meeting participants, Co-Chair of the United States Congressional Brain Injury Task Force Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., said, “The Congressional Brain Injury Task Force eagerly awaits the results of your work.”

Founded in 1999, Northeast Center for Special Care is a unique inpatient facility designed to serve medically complex and multiply impaired individuals with brain injury, spinal cord injury, neurobehavioral disorders, ventilator and respiratory care needs and other complex medical needs. Advanced professional skills and innovative therapies are coupled with an unwavering belief in the potential of every individual to progress. It is this belief that drives our commitment to help those recovering at Northeast Center achieve the highest degree of rehabilitation possible and to re-enter the community.

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Beth Faichney
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