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Attitudes towards Personhood in the Locked-in Syndrome: from Third- to First- Person Perspective and to Interpersonal Significance

  • Marie-Christine NizziEmail author
  • Veronique Blandin
  • Athena Demertzi
Original Paper


Personhood is ascribed on others, such that someone who is recognized to be a person is bestowed with certain civil rights and the right to decision making. A rising question is how severely brain-injured patients who regain consciousness can also regain their personhood. The case of patients with locked-in syndrome (LIS) is illustrative in this matter. Upon restoration of consciousness, patients with LIS find themselves in a state of profound demolition of their bodily functions. From the third-person perspective, it can be expected that LIS patients might experience a differential personal identity and may lose their status as persons. However, from the patients’ perspective, it is uncontested that they retain their personal identity and that they consider themselves to be persons. We here include results from a survey with patients with LIS aimed at identifying the primary expectations of patients for their care by non-medical professionals. Based on these first-hand reports, we argue that personhood in LIS is progressively regained as the widening circle of others recognizes them as persons.


Personhood Locked-in syndrome (LIS) Self Attitudes Identity 



We thank the French Association for Locked-in Syndrome (ALIS) for their active collaboration, and in particular Isabelle Lauberthe, who interviewed her 30 fellow LIS respondents. This work was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM), and the Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research (FNRS).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.UFR de Psychologie, Laboratoire PSITEC, EA 4072Université Lille 3Villeneuve d’AscqFrance
  3. 3.Association ALISBoulogneFrance
  4. 4.INSERM, U 1127ParisFrance
  5. 5.Hôpital Pitié-SalpêtrièreInstitut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinièreParisFrance
  6. 6.Coma Science Group, GIGA Research InstituteUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium

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