Skeptical about Coma man?

I have been following this case for the past couple of days mainly because of a sense of terror at being stuck inside an unresponsive body for 23 years while being fully concious! He is apparently able to type his words on a computer, and is even planning on writing a book. This sounded so amazing that at first I was willing to just accept the mass media reporting.

However, after the initial shock and horror wore off I started following some of the more skeptical blogs out there to see what was really going on.

This story has made world headlines, but there are still so many questions that need to be asked regarding the truth of this story. If you look at the video footage of the man 'communicating' through the computer, you can see that it is actually his facilitator who is doing the typing, and most of the time Mr Houben is not even looking at the screen. This has lead a lot of skeptics to criticise the stories being reported through the media. The basis of the criticism is the use of 'Facilitated Communication' which Randi debunked in the early 90's.
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/783-this-cruel-farce-has-...
http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1286
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/rom_houben_is_still_a_victim.php

My problem with this criticism is that just because the FC is not valid it does not mean that Mr Houben is not awake.
If you look a little deeper you will see that Mr Houben has been communicating for almost 3 years, and in some cases without the help of a facilitator, using a mouse he operates with his foot.
For a nice report have a look at this blog

http://notdeadyetnewscommentary.blogspot.com/2009/11/art-caplan-debunks-...

I cannot imagine being trapped like this for 23 years, and I hope for Mr Houbens sake that new technology will enable him to communicate effectively with his family.

There are so many questions that remain to be answered about this case, and I think that we have to trust the neurologists who are caring for him to fully test his level of conciousness and his ability to communicate through a facilitator.

I will be watching this case closely and update with any new information. Needless to say you should not trust anything you hear in the mass media, and you should even be skeptical of the skeptics at times.

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I've been following this too,

I've been following this too, it's rare but there is the odd case of a person becoming more conscious from a long term coma (mind you I'm questioning those now too). Normally it doesn't happen and any improvements (if they are going to happen) occur early on. This video, he doesn't even appear to be awake and the woman tapping away is doing it so fast it cannot possibly be him doing it given that he's been described as only being able to twitch and with obvious contractures that would limit movement.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/975121/belgian-coma-man-was-just-awake-...

I've worked with brain injured patients and had to communicate using letter boards and it's a slow process of going through the list and stopping at the patients cue or alternatively, spelling it out while they laboriously point to the words they want to say. It's really sad because if he really is conscious, this is really taking his "voice" away from him as he clearly isn't being given the option to really say anything for himself. What's surprising is that initially at least, no expert commenting on this put up a red flag that it might not be what it seems and asked for more evidence it was in fact him communicating when it's fairly obvious that the claim might not be true. That would be easy to test, you'd just show him something without the facilitator being there and then ask him to describe it. The result would then show if he was taking in and processing information and then was able to communicate back.