COMA patients should not be signed off sick as they can perform light tasks such as draught exclusion, the health minister Alan Johnson has announced.
People in a persistent vegetative state could work as speed bumps or be left outside hospital entrances with their trousers and underpants removed to operate as bicycle racks.
Mr Johnson said: "Coma patients make good hat-stands. They can be left outside pubs with ashtrays in their hands. They can advertise golf sales."
The minister stressed that patients who were too ill to leave the hospital could still do useful work if covered in dusters and pulled around the corridors by relatives for a few hours each day.
He added: "My father lost both his arms and both his legs in an industrial accident.
"But did he sit around drinking super lager and watching Stargate SG-1? No, he curled himself up into a ball and rolled out into the streets to look for work."
Dr Julian Cook, a GP from Leicester, said doctors often had to make difficult judgments when offered a bottle of whisky by their patients.
He said: "A good single malt, such as Talisker or Lagavulin, is a passport to a life of incapacity benefit and golf – but what should one make of a third-rate blend from Asda?"