And just think what these test subjects are thinking.
Here they are stuck inside their minds for years - in solitary confinement able to stare at the ceiling and hear what is going on, but not respond. They are going insane from a form of torture FAR more cruel than anything the CIA could come up with.
Then suddenly somebody starts asking them questions after putting them in a machine. The scientists start talking - HEY - THEY REALIZE I CAN HEAR THEM. I CAN COMMUNICATE NOW. MY FAMILY WILL START TALKING TO ME AND I CAN TALK BACK. Ok, maybe this is still a horrible condition to be in, but there is hope now!
Then the scientists say "ok, subject looks positive - let's take a look at the next one" and the patient goes back to their room wondering when anybody will bother to take another look at them. They get to listen to their family talking to the doctors about it, and the doctor indicates that fMRI time is far too precious to spend on family conversations. They are doomed to at least a few more years of complete isolation, maybe for the rest of their lives unless fMRIs get a lot cheaper.
Unless this actually results in an improvement to quality of life for those in this condition I fear that it will only prolong suffering. Now, if this provides diagnostic information or some chance at being released from their coma then that would be a great thing all around.
Having been in a hospital for short periods of time and having been with others in hospitals, it can be near-torture for those who are nearly ambulatory. Just imagine what it would be like to be in a coma.
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan