Belgian coma 'writer' Rom Houben can't communicate
2010-02-21 0:00

From: BBCNews

A Belgian man who stunned the world last year by apparently communicating after 23 years in a coma cannot in fact do so, researchers say.

The doctor who believed that Rom Houben was communicating through a facilitator now says the method does not work.

Dr Steven Laureys told the BBC: "The story of Rom is about the diagnosis of consciousness, not communication."

His conclusions follow a study to test the validity of so-called facilitated communication.

Claims that Mr Houben - who was seriously injured in a car crash in 1983 - could communicate, swept around the world last November.
After more than two decades in a coma, he was filmed apparently tapping out messages on a special touchpad keyboard with the help of his speech therapist.

Method 'not valid'

By holding Mr Houben's forearm and finger, the therapist was said to feel sufficient pressure to direct her to the correct keys on the keyboard.

Dr Laureys, a neurologist at Liege University Hospital in Belgium, had earlier established that Mr Houben, was more conscious than doctors had previously thought - and that is still thought to be the case.

But he also believed that his interaction with the speech therapist was genuine. Following further study, however, Dr Laureys says the method does not work.

He told the BBC that a series of tests on a group of coma patients, including Mr Houben, had concluded that the method was after all false. The results of the study were presented in London on Friday.

Objects and words were shown to the patients in the absence of the facilitator who was then called back into the room. The patient was then asked to say what they had seen or heard.

"It's easy to watch the video and say this method is not valid, but to prove that it is not true is actually very difficult," Dr Laureys said.

Houben was 'writing a book'

Doubts were expressed about the method by other experts at the time and repeated this week.

"It's like using an Ouija board," Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, told Associated Press on Friday. "It was too good to be true and we shouldn't have believed it."

Last November Mr Houben's 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."

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

Experts say the question of whether people like Houben who have a traumatic brain injury are conscious and alert remains unanswered.

"I hope Rom and his family will stay as an example" of how hard it is to pick up the signs of consciousness, Dr Laureys told the Associated Press.

"Even when we know that patients are conscious, we don't know if there is pain or suffering or what they are feeling."

Article from: News.BBC.co.uk



Related Articles
'Thought reading' brings hope for vegetative state patients
Signature of consciousness captured in brain scans
Man controlled robotic hand with thoughts
Scientists communicate with brain-damaged man (Video)


Latest News from our Front Page

Turkey's Erdogan threatened to flood Europe with migrants: Greek website
2016-02-09 23:04
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened in November to flood Europe with migrants if European Union leaders did not offer him a better deal to help manage the Middle East refugee crisis, a Greek news website said on Monday. Publishing what it said were minutes of a tense meeting last November, the euro2day.gr financial news website revealed deep mutual irritation and distrust ...
Will Denmark Be The First Islamic Nation In Europe?
2016-02-09 23:44
Daily headlines prove that Europe is bursting at the seams with Islamists attempting to establish Sharia law and homegrown terror plots. France is ablaze with radicals, ISIS threatens they will send Spain back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, and Britain is much too concerned with appeasing Muslims that they are doing away with their own citizens’ free speech. The ...
'Hamilton' musical: All American founders non-White, but evil King George. I hate musicals!
2016-02-09 22:43
‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, is being performed on Broadway. You know it’s going to have political undertones, when you read that the first act is titled: “Immigrants : We get the job done!” In addition to Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s musical also casts Aaron Burr, George Washington, James Madison, John Laurens, Marquis Gilbert ...
Ted Nugent Posts "Anti-Semitic" Facebook Message About Gun Control
2016-02-09 22:53
Rock musician Ted Nugent posted a message about “who is really behind gun control” on Facebook that the Anti-Defamation League slammed as "anti-Semitic". More: ADL claims 26% of all world population is “anti-semitic” The ADL and domestic spying: Roy Bullock case revisited "Antisemitism on rise across Europe in worst times since the Nazis" says "expert" to the Guardian In the post, Nugent shares a ...
Illegal immigrant is arrested over murder of American nanny in Austria after she took him in to stop him being deported - and is revealed to have raped underage girl
2016-02-09 22:20
An illegal immigrant has been arrested over the murder of an American nanny who had given him shelter at her Vienna apartment. The 24-year-old Gambian had been wanted by police since the death of Lauren Mann, 25, from Grand Junction, Colorado last month. He was arrested on Thursday in Bern, Switzerland, at an asylum center there after his mobile phone use was ...
More News »