What’s the Sound of Personhood?

Thomas’ parents had not been sure, since his brain injury, if he recognized them or even sensed their presence. Lying in a hospital bed he looked like a typical 12-year-old boy. If it weren’t for the constellation of cables hooked up to various large machines, it’d be easy to imagine him napping on a weekend afternoon after roughhousing with the neighborhood kids.

Only Thomas didn’t move, and hadn’t for two years. He suffered from a brain injury that left him profoundly disabled. He was incontinent, unable to eat, speak, gesture, or breathe on his own, and dependent on round-the-clock medical care. His parents realized they couldn’t give him the care he needed at home. This is how Thomas came to be in the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Canada, in a hybrid unit that serves

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus6 min readPsychology
Why Did Witch Hunts Go Viral?
It’s hard to make sense of witch hunts. Many people of early modern Europe and colonial America seemed to have genuinely believed that witches posed a serious threat. But if witch trials—like the ones in Salem, Massachusetts, and in European communit
Nautilus5 min read
Physicists Peer Inside a Fireball of Quantum Matter
Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine’s Abstractions blog. A gold wedding band will melt at around 1,000 degrees Celsius and vaporize at about 2,800 degrees, but these changes are just the beginning of what can happen to matter. Crank up the
Nautilus12 min read
The Flawed Reasoning Behind the Replication Crisis: It’s time to change the way uncertainty is quantified.
Here are three versions of the same story: 1. In the fall of 1996, Sally Clark, an English solicitor in Manchester, gave birth to an apparently healthy baby boy who died suddenly when he was 11 weeks old. She was still recovering from the traumatic i