I am always surprised when I read about the discovery of the latest talents of those in a medically verified coma.
I’m not surprised the coma artist turns out to be a fake in the end, because they always are — I am surprised how the media are so readily eager to be fooled by charlatans who use the comatose for gain in the fame game. If we can’t have genuine Savants, we’ll invent them instead from a hospital bed!
Why do we have such a need to place communication in a mind that has none?
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….
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.”
Do you remember the Terri Schiavo fight between her husband and her family? Her husband wanted to let her die in her brain dead state while her family was certain she was communicating with a series of eye blinks and involuntary head movements. Terri Schiavo was finally allowed to die in peace in 2005.
However, Terri’s death as a “misunderstood miracle” hasn’t stopped the religious right-wingers from calling her death a murder.
A new study released this month from the New England Journal of Medicine concerning communication and brain injury is already being twisted by the radical right as proof that the brain dead are still cogent and able to communicate via MRI questioning.
Dr. Allan H. Ropper warns against misunderstanding the conclusions of the study:
Research on clinically undetected consciousness is easily subject to overinterpretation and sensationalism that the authors certainly do not intend. In discussions with families and in physicians’ capacity as spokespersons to society on these matters, three points should be emphasized. First, in this study, brain activation was detected in very few patients. Second, activation was found only in some patients with traumatic brain injury, not in patients with global ischemia and anoxia. Third, cortical activation does not provide evidence of an internal “stream of thought” (William James’s term), memory, self-awareness, reflection, synthesis of experience, symbolic representations, or — just as important — anxiety, despair, or awareness of one’s predicament. Without judging the quality of any person’s inner life, we cannot be certain whether we are interacting with a sentient, much less a competent, person.
Why do I have a feeling the mainstream media will soon report Terri Schiavo’s family is trying to resurrect her from the grave to write the next hit Broadway musical?
Some may argue it is bad taste to enliven the dead with satire — but I will always argue using the brain dead for political gain and religious profit are always more unseemly and anti-humanistic in every respect.
It is horrible when those who are unable to fight back are exploited. I wonder if those that fought for Terry and Rom were just clinging on to a desperate hope that they would come back — I know that I hoped every day that my grandmother would somehow make a full recovery even though there were no signs that it was possible.
I guess we move into the cruel realm of when is enough enough and what is the indicator of life that we can accept medically and faithfully? Is breath enough of life without any brain activity? If breath cannot be sustained by the body — should death be allowed to commence? Where is the line drawn between hope and selfishness?
Well, if I plan to keep on believing what I want to believe, is there any power in the world that can stop me? Unless I want to do otherwise?
The point is – it’s dangerous when I stop thinking critically and start believing blindly…
Yes, the difference between belief and fact and science has always been a fight. When is the right time to let go? When do the facts outweigh the faith? Can faith ever reliably beat the odds?