Coma Man's 'Communication' Proved False

Neurologist says Rom Houben is conscious, but can't communicate
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2010 8:19 AM CST
In this Nov. 24, 2009 file photo, Belgium's Rom Houben uses his touchscreen to communicate during an interview.   (AP Photo/Yves Logghe, file)
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(Newser) – The story of a Belgian man who began communicating after more than 20 years in a coma made headlines around the world, but the skeptics have now been proven right. Rom Houben's neurologist says further tests have found that the facilitated communication method, in which a therapist guided Houben's fingers over a keyboard, wasn't working and that the therapist must have been unwittingly guiding the patient's hand.

The neurologist found that Houben was unable to push a button to identify objects seen or referred to when the therapist wasn't guiding his hand, the Guardian reports. "It's like using a Ouija board," a professor of bioethics says of facilitated communication. "It was too good to be true, and we shouldn't have believed it." Brain images show that Houben is indeed conscious, his neurologist says, but every attempt to find a way to communicate with him has failed.

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