Traditionally, vegetative state is conceived as a syndrome in which only autonomous, i.e. vegetative functions are preserved. Cognitive functions and other mental competencies are thought to be absent including consciousness and self-representation. In the paper pre-sented, new data are presented which contradict the traditional view and demonstrate that components of the mental/cognitive processing devices are still active in patients in VS and recovering from VS. Consequences for ethical and legal considerations are deduced from the new scientific findings.