Disorders of consciousness continue to be the subject of hot debate in healthcare settings, research consortiums, bioethics departments and media forums. There are no standards of care to guide assessment and treatment decisions resulting in wide disparities in daily practice. In response to this problem, expert panels in neurology and neurorehabilitation were convened and charged with developing consensus-based definitions and diagnostic criteria for disorders of consciousness. The Multi-Society Task Force Report on the persistent vegetative state and the Aspen Workgroup statement on the minimally conscious state represent two such initiatives. This paper summarizes the practice recommendations proposed by these groups and discusses their implications for existing and future interventions.