Pharyngula

Really? This guy is conscious?

You may have heard the recent news about a Belgian man who was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state after an accident, but who now has been miraculously discovered to have actually been conscious for the last 23 years, trapped in a partially paralyzed body. How horrific, and how frightening that the doctors could have made such a ghastly error.

Until you watch this video. How did they figure out that the poor man was actually alert and mentally competent beneath his deeply damaged exterior? They’re using facilitated communication: somebody holds his hand and moves it around to tap out messages on a computer. Look at the fellow, sitting there slack and grimacing and drooling, and the staffer deftly and quickly using his finger to peck out lucid and grammatical sentences. How does anyone fall for this?

I’d like to see how well Mr Houben communicates when his ‘facilitator’ is blindfolded, or when he is asked questions about objects in his line of sight but hidden from hers.

Comments

  1. #1 sachatur
    February 18, 2010

    Looks like Dr. Steven Laureys is retracting now:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123813455

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