Coma Man's Words May Not Be His
Experts doubt Houben's 'facilitated communication'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2009 2:28 AM CST

(Newser) – Ron Houben's poignant words after being locked for 23 years inside his paralyzed body may not be his own, according to some skeptical experts. They believe the Belgian, misdiagnosed as being in a vegetative state, is definitely sentient. But they note that an "interview" with him relied on "facilitated communication" in which an aide guided his fingers on a keyboard. The technique has been widely discredited in studies by research that showed aides consciously or unconsciously guided patients' hands.

“I don’t trust it,” the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics tells Wired. “I’m not saying the whole thing is a hoax, but somebody ought to be checking this in greater detail. Any time facilitated communication of any sort is involved, red flags fly.”