Man in Supposed 23-Year-Long Coma Speaks (UPDATED, Re: Hoax)

Email Print

UPDATED: Looks like this case is a hoax:

Writes MK:

Some of things about Rom Houben in your link seems to be questionable.

Psychology Today

In late November of last year, I wrote a piece entitled “Is Anybody In There?” (…) about the curious case of a Belgian named Rom Houben. Houben was assumed to be in a coma for over 20 years as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. One of his treating neurologists, Dr. Steven Laureys, claimed that Houben was actually misdiagnosed, and that he was now able to not only read and move his feet, but also to communicate lucidly and intelligently through the use of a computer.

Skeptics, including myself, pointed out that Houben’s purported messages were obtained through the use of facilitated communication (FC), a controversial technique that has repeatedly failed under conditions of rigorous testing. The messages were also suspicious in that a person who was unwillingly locked into a non-communicative state for more than two decades was so articulate and forgiving of the medical staff who had dismissed him. FC proponents decried such skeptics as cold-hearted and unable to accept clear proof of the therapeutic value of FC.

Original post:

I mention this article only because I think it is relevant to the libertarian debate over definitions of personhood and natural rights:

After he was the victim of an automobile accident, doctors said 23-year-old Rom Houben was in a comatose state and unable to communicate with those around him. Now, 23 years later, the 46-year-old says he felt trapped as he was conscious the entire time and attempted to communicate…Although tests at the time showed that he was essentially “extinct,” newer tests conducted just three years ago showed Houben’s brain was functioning normally — and his renewed ability to communicate is something he describes as a “second birth.”…Laureys says physicians need to not be so quick to label patients as in a vegetative state, because such a diagnosis can be incorrect…”We hear constantly that people diagnosed as being persistently unconscious should be dehydrated to death because they are not ‘persons,’ or are actually ‘dead’ — and so should be available for organ harvesting,”

It’s also relevant because in our present corporatist health care system, doctors routinely pressure the families of so-called brain dead people to kill their relatives in order to harvest their organs. It turns out, some of those people are still functioning mentally. Also, now that we know socialized medicine leads to “cost saving” measures such as starving babies to death, this is something to keep in mind.

10:31 pm on December 7, 2012