cosmic carson

People keep attacking Ben Carson about the pyramid thing and the scholarship thing, but so far nobody’s brought up the worst thing about him: functional hemispherectomies.

These were one of Carson’s big innovations as a neurosurgeon. You get rid of one hemisphere of the brain in order to prevent seizures. If you do it when a kid is young enough, the other hemisphere can mostly take over and the kid can be pretty normal. So far, so good.

Problem is, they don’t take the hemisphere out. They just leave it in the head, with all the neural connections severed. What happens to it? I’m not sure. But I once read a Reddit comment by a guy doing some kind of neuroscience who was worried that it’s still there. That is, there’s some kind of consciousness in there with total sensory deprivation and no way of interacting with the outside world. One hopes that absent normal stimuli it degenerates into random electrical noise or perma-seizure or something, but I’ve never found anything to confirm or refute this.

This scares me enough that if I ever need a functional hemispherectomy (I won’t) I’m not signing any consent forms until the surgeon promises to thoroughly destroy the redundant hemisphere. I don’t even know if this is a thing they can do. But until they can, is it really ethical to perform these kinds of operations?

If I were a debate moderator, this is the hardball question I would throw at Ben Carson.