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23-year coma wasn’t a coma
Posted: 24 November 2009 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8375326.stm

Paralysed Belgian misdiagnosed as in coma for 23 years

A Belgian man who doctors thought was in a coma for 23 years was conscious all along, it has been revealed.

Medical staff believed Rom Houben had sunk irretrievably into a coma after he was injured in a car crash in 1983.

The University of Liege doctor who discovered in 2006 that, although Mr Houben was paralysed, his brain was working, said the case was not unique.

Mr Houben said that at first he felt angry at his powerlessness, but eventually learned to live with it.

“Other people had an opinion of me,” Mr Houben, now 46, told the BBC.

“I knew what I could do and what I was capable of but other people had a rather pathetic image of me. I had to learn to be patient and now finally we are on an equal footing.”

‘He’s an optimist’

It was only in 2006 that a scan revealed Mr Houben’s brain was in fact almost entirely functioning.

He now communicates by using a special keyboard attached to his wheelchair.

His mother, Fina Houben, told the BBC that she always believed her son could communicate.

“He is not depressed he is an optimist,” she said. “He wants to get out of life what he can.”

The BBC’s Dominic Hughes, in Belgium, says the case raises the issue of how many other people believed to be in comas are actually trapped inside their bodies, desperate to communicate.

Mr Houben’s story was revealed in a paper written by Steven Laureys, a doctor at Liege University who wrote a recent paper that detailed the case.

In it, Mr Laureys said that in about 40% of cases in which people are classified as being in a vegetative state, closer inspection reveals signs of consciousness.

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Posted: 24 November 2009 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Watch this video and you will see that this is nothing more than facilitated communication, a common form of new age bullshit. The woman is the one who is answering the interviewer’s questions. The only thing more tragic than this man’s condition is the fact that he is being exploited by a woo artist and the media has fallen for it.

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Posted: 24 November 2009 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I have to agree Captain.  It seems to me that if the gentleman could actually ‘use’ his finger to ‘guide’ hers, he could also use enough of his finger to communicate in a rudimentary way on his own… he’d be able to answer at least ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions.  He is also able to blink his eyes so he’d be able to answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions. 

I am wary of any person who believes they know so well what another is thinking that they can ‘speak’ for that person.

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Posted: 24 November 2009 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m sorry to hear that Cap’t. downer

Much like the Schivo case, it seems that this man’s family is SO desperate to believe, that they are willing to cut corners and “facillitate” the communication. And then they can’t seem to believe that their “little boy” says everything that they always were hoping to hear. shut eye

Now, instead of being able to accept the situation, as terrible as it is, they will have a huge gaping hole that will be kept open by these “facilitators” forever. or at least until their money runs out… and then their son will simply “go silent’ once again.  People that play this scam on others should be hung up by their short and danglies and left there for the vermin t find. mad

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Posted: 24 November 2009 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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After watching the video again, I have come up with a simple way to test if it is really him communicating, or just his “facilitator” doing it for him.  Since it seems he answers in Flemish, but understands English, get an English “facilitator” to “help him support his hand”,  then ask him questions that the facilitator would have no way of knowing the answer to.

Dollars to doughnuts he suddenly gets “amnesia’ or is “too stressed out to answer right now”. hmmm

People that do this kind of stuff, though they may actually believe that what they are doing is real (I DOUBT it, but it could happen) are merely prolonging the inevitable.  The spark that made up their son IS GONE.  All that is left is the envelope he came in.  It is time to move on….. downer

This is just a tragedy all the way around….

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Posted: 25 November 2009 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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daveprime - 24 November 2009 05:46 PM

After watching the video again, I have come up with a simple way to test if it is really him communicating, or just his “facilitator” doing it for him.

You’re absolutely right, yet not one mass media outlet has thought of this or any number of other ways to test these claims. In fact, they don’t even seem to be aware that there could be any kind of deception going on! Hasn’t even one reporter thought the woman moving his hand over the keyboard, pressing the keys for him is even the least bit suspicious? It’s just as I’ve always said, these TV stations and papers are not in the news business, they’re in the entertainment business.

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Posted: 25 November 2009 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Assist computers already exist that rely on just the slightest finger or eye movements, not to mention all of these new ‘mind reading’ systems that are being developed.  If he has enough strength to guide her hand then he has enough strength to type out a reply on his own.

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Posted: 25 November 2009 01:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Charybdis - 25 November 2009 06:07 PM

Assist computers already exist that rely on just the slightest finger or eye movements, not to mention all of these new ‘mind reading’ systems that are being developed.  If he has enough strength to guide her hand then he has enough strength to type out a reply on his own.

THis was pretty much my exact thought.

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Posted: 25 November 2009 02:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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If you were trapped in your own mind for 23 years, unable to communicate in any way, how sane would you be? I don’t think I would have any sanity left.

Just a thought.

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Posted: 26 November 2009 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Appropriate picture

(Edited the picture out and put in a link to it. It was a bit over-sized. ~Tah)

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Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.
-Robert Park

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Posted: 27 November 2009 01:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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All that pic is way too big…

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Posted: 19 February 2010 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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An update.  Source.

Paralyzed Belgian patient can’t talk after all
Rom Houben conscious but not communicating, doctor says

It was heralded as a medical miracle. After spending more than two decades in a coma, Rom Houben, a Belgian man in his mid-forties, was suddenly able to communicate, news reports trumpeted last November.

Other experts questioned the method Houben that was apparently using to communicate. The technique is known as “facilitated communication,” in which the patient supposedly directs the hand of a speech therapist who typed out his thoughts.

Houben’s doctors said it seemed to be genuine. Until now.

Dr. Steven Laureys, a neurologist at Liege University Hospital in Belgium, one of Houben’s doctors, now acknowledges the technique doesn’t work and that while Houben is conscious, he is not communicating.

“We did not have all the facts before,” he said Friday. “The story of Rom is about the diagnosis of consciousness, not communication.”

Houben was injured in a car crash in 1983 when he was 20, and was said to be in a vegetative state, in which a patient is unconscious and there is no evidence of perception or intentional movement.

Based on bedside tests four years ago, Laureys and his team diagnosed Houben as being conscious, and performed brain scans proving his brain activity was more active than other doctors had thought.

Laureys, who was not Houben’s treating physician, said the man’s family and other doctors brought in a speech therapist to use facilitated communication. “From the start, I did not prescribe this technique,” he said. “But it is important not to make judgments. His family and caregivers acted out of love and compassion.”

Last November, news of the case first broke in Der Spiegel, a German publication, and The Associated Press and others reported on it as well. Houben’s speech therapist claimed she could feel pressure from his hand guiding her on a keyboard. A basic test was performed that ostensibly proved it was Houben who was communicating.

Since then, Laureys has done his own small study of three speech therapists working with minimally conscious patients, including Houben. In two of those cases, including Houben’s, the technique failed. Last week, Laureys presented the results at a neuropsychiatry meeting in London.

“To me, it’s enough to say this method doesn’t work,” he said Friday.

Other experts said the technique should never have been used in the first place.

“It’s like using an Ouija board,” Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said Friday. “It was too good to be true and we shouldn’t have believed it.”

Last year, Houben’s mother claimed her son was writing a book. “Just imagine,” Houben ostensibly typed out via his speech therapist. “You hear, see, feel and think but no one can see that.”

Tom McMillan, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of Glasgow, said facilitated communication could be used with some patients but should not be used with ones like Houben who had severe brain injuries. “It has an intermediary who can exert control and affect the outcome,” he said.

Experts say the larger question of whether people like Houben who have a traumatic brain injury are conscious and alert remains unanswered. Earlier this month, Laureys and others reported finding glimmers of awareness in some apparently vegetative brain-injury patients. (Houben was excluded from that study).

“I hope Rom and his family will stay as an example” of how hard it is to pick up the signs of consciousness, Laureys said. “Even when we know that patients are conscious, we don’t know if there is pain or suffering or what they are feeling.”

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