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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

It is very sad to hear your story. I can give a guess about the awfulness of what you are going through, but I am more certain that I cannot appreciate the full daily horror for you.

Your question is a most reasonable one. Is your mother "alive"? It is interesting that you feel obliged to put this word in scare quotes. It is something that "you can't stop asking yourself". So there is something very important here, an important issue. But you have also answered your own question, or part of it. Let us distinguish between the mental and the physical. Is your mother alive physically? Her body is not dead, if we can put it that way. Is she alive "as a conscious being"? Here you give your own answer: ' . . . she is unconscious about anything [that] is happening around her.' I think perhaps you should say that she is conscious only of the most immediate and restricted domain. That perhaps is part of the reason the question is difficult. She is conscious, but not in a full sense. The whole difficulty about this kind of condition is that it seems to be a kind of living death, and we have not fully developed ethical concepts to match its metaphysical complexity.

I hope this answer does help with your question. You should ask more questions if they present themselves.

All the best to you.