You may have seen one of the stories over the weekend talking about a man named Rom Houben. According to the article, he had apparently been in a coma for 23 years but was actually conscious the whole time. He was trapped inside his body, unable to communicate. Here are a few of the articles, plus a CNN video:
The problem: He’s not really communicating.
The video (and the first photo in the third article) shows the problem. Rom Houben is not typing on the keyboard – someone else is. This is called “facilitated communication”, and the following article by James Randi explains what has gone wrong:
I cannot understand how anyone, professional medical person or layman, can continue to believe that the farce known as “Facilitated Communication” [FC] represents anything other than a fantasy that was begun back in 1977, when an Australian woman named Rosemary Crossley came up with the idea that autistic persons could express their thoughts via a keyboard when their hand was “supported” by what she called a “facilitator.” In 1989, Douglas Biklen, a sociologist and professor of special education at Syracuse University, eagerly took up her cause, and as a result vast sums were donated to SU by friends and family members of autism victims – money that was simply wasted in futile “research.”
James Randi is not one to mince words. The article does a good job of explaining and providing evidence for his point of view. And this little video, showing a small piece of a 60 Minutes episode, shows how easy it is to disprove Facilitated Communication – take the facilitator out of the room for part of the conversation and the Communication comes to an end:
See also: Reborn Coma Man’s Words May Be Bogus
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