《经济学人》:怎样死才算死?
日期:2011-09-26 11:06

(单词翻译:单击)

Psychology
心理学

How dead is dead?
怎样死才算死?

Sometimes, those who have died seem more alive than those who have not
有时,死人似乎比活人更"活"。

Aug 20th 2011 | from the print edition

IN GENERAL, people are pretty good at differentiating between the quick and the dead. Modern medicine, however, has created a third option, the persistent vegetative state. People in such a state have serious brain damage as a result of an accident or stroke. This often means they have no hope of regaining consciousness. Yet because parts of their brains that run activities such as breathing are intact, their vital functions can be sustained indefinitely.

通常,人们都比较擅长分辨生者与死者。然而,现代医学技术创造了第三个选项——永久性植物人状态。处于这种状态的人,其大脑因意外或中风而严重受损。这经常意味着他们没有希望再恢复意识。但是,由于他们大脑里负责某些生理活动(如呼吸)的部分仍然完好,所以他们的生命机能可以被永远维持下去。

When, if ever, to withdraw medical support from such people, and thus let them die, is always a traumatic decision. It depends in part, though, on how the fully alive view the mental capacities of the vegetative—an area that has not been investigated much.

何时撤走维持他们生命的医疗手段,任其死去(如果真的要这样做的话)?这是个痛苦的决定。不过,这在某种程度上取决于真正活着的人如何看待植物人的心智活动能力,这个领域人类还未作过深入研究。

To fill that gap Kurt Gray of the University of Maryland, and Annie Knickman and Dan Wegner of Harvard University, conducted an experiment designed to ascertain just how people perceive those in a persistent vegetative state. What they found astonished them.

为了填补这个领域的空白,马里兰州大学的库尔特•格雷和哈佛大学的丹•魏格纳进行了一个实验,旨在确定人们如何认知植物人。实验结果令他们大吃一惊。

They first asked 201 people stopped in public in New York and New England to answer questions after reading one of three short stories. In all three, a man called David was involved in a car accident and suffered serious injuries. In one, he recovered fully. In another, he died. In the third, his entire brain was destroyed except for one part that kept him breathing. Although he was technically alive, he would never again wake up.

首先,他们在纽约和新英格兰的公众场所选择201个人,让他们阅读三个小故事的其中一个,然后回答一些问题。三个故事当中,都讲到一个名叫大卫的男人遭遇车祸并严重受伤。在第一个故事里,大卫完全康复了。在第二个里,他死了。第三个中,除了维持呼吸的那一部分外,他的大脑完全受损。虽然严格来讲,大卫仍然活着,但他再也不会苏醒了。

After reading one of these stories, chosen at random, each participant was asked to rate David’s mental capacities, including whether he could influence the outcome of events, know right from wrong, remember incidents from his life, be aware of his environment, possess a personality and have emotions. Participants used a seven-point scale to make these ratings, where 3 indicated that they strongly agreed that he could do such things, 0 indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed, and -3 indicated that they strongly disagreed.

随机阅读一个小故事后,每位被试都被要求对大卫的心智能力作出评价,评价内容包括:他能否影响外界发生的事物,能否判断是非和记忆过去的事,能否对他所在的环境有所意识,是否拥有个性和情感。被试们用七个等级来进行评分,3表示非常同意大卫能够完成这些事,0表示既不同意亦不反对,-3表示强烈反对。

The results, reported in Cognition, were that the fully recovered David rated an average of 1.77 and the dead David -0.29. That score for the dead David was surprising enough, suggesting as it did a considerable amount of mental acuity in the dead. What was extraordinary, though, was the result for the vegetative David: -1.73. In the view of the average New Yorker or New Englander, the vegetative David was more dead than the version who was dead.

在《认知》杂志上报道的结果显示,完全康复的大卫得到的评价均值为1.77,死去的大卫得到的评价均值为-0.29。死去的大卫得到这样的分数已经令人甚感惊奇了,因为这表明死者大卫的心智仍相当敏锐。但离奇的是变成植物人的大卫得到的平均分为-1.73。在纽约和新英格兰的普通市民眼中,变成植物人的大卫比死去的大卫“死”得更彻底。

The researchers’ first hypothesis to explain this weird observation was that participants were seeing less mind in the vegetative than in the dead because they were focusing on the inert body of the individual hooked up to a life-support system. To investigate that, they ran a follow-up experiment which had two different descriptions of the dead David. One said he had simply passed away. The other directed the participant’s attention to the corpse. It read, “After being embalmed at the morgue, he was buried in the local cemetery. David now lies in a coffin underground.” No ambiguity there. In this follow-up study participants were also asked to rate how religious they were.

为了解释这个奇怪的观察结果,研究者们作出的第一个假设是被试认为植物人的心智活动比死人更少,因为被试关注的是大卫那连接着维持生命的系统、呆滞的身体。为了研究这个假设,他们又进行了一个后续实验,这次对于大卫的死亡有两个不同版本的描述。一个只说他去世了。另一个则使被试联想到大卫的尸体,它写到:“大卫的尸体在太平间作过防腐处理后,便被埋葬在当地的公墓中。如今他正躺在地下的一个棺材中。”描述非常清晰,毫不含糊。在后续实验里,被试也被要求对自己的宗教虔诚度作出评价。

Once again, the vegetative David was seen to have less mind than the David who had “passed away”. This was equally true, regardless of how religious a participant said he was. However, ratings of the dead David’s mind in the story in which his corpse was embalmed and buried varied with the participant’s religiosity.

这次,植物人大卫的心智活动仍然被认为少于“去世”的大卫。不论被试对自己的宗教虔诚度评价有多高,结果仍是如此。但是,被试读过描述大卫被作防腐处理并埋葬的故事后,对其心智活动作出的评价会随被试的宗教虔诚度而改变。

Irreligious participants gave the buried corpse about the same mental ratings as the vegetative patient (-1.51 and -1.64 respectively). Religious participants, however, continued to ascribe less mind to the irretrievably unconscious David than they did to his buried corpse (-1.57 and 0.59).

无宗教信仰的被试对被被埋葬的大卫的尸体和植物人大卫的评价大致相同(分别为-1.51和-1.64)。但是,有宗教信仰的被试仍然认为意识已经一去不返的植物人大卫其心智活动比死去的大卫少(分别为-1.57和0.59)。

That those who believe in an afterlife ascribe mental acuity to the dead is hardly surprising. That those who do not are inclined to do so unless heavily prompted not to is curious indeed.

相信来世的人认为死人仍有精神活动,这一点都不奇怪。但那些不相信来世的人也倾向于这样认为(除非被强烈提示避免如此),实在是相当奇怪。

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重点单词
  • vitaladj. 至关重要的,生死攸关的,有活力的,致命的
  • perceivevt. 察觉,感觉,认知,理解
  • scalen. 鳞,刻度,衡量,数值范围 v. 依比例决定,攀登
  • randomadj. 随机的,随意的,任意的 adv. 随机地 n.
  • hypothesisn. 假设,猜测,前提
  • acuityn. 敏锐;尖锐;剧烈
  • investigatev. 调查,研究 [计算机] 研究
  • extraordinaryadj. 非凡的,特别的,特派的
  • environmentn. 环境,外界
  • possessvt. 持有,支配