23 year in coma and then in headlines.

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Rom Houben was thought to have been in coma for around 20 years but then Steven Laureys brain scanned him with positron emission tomography and found that he was minimally conscious. From a German news article it gets into English news and further even to the front page of a Danish tabloid. And the news media had citations from Rom himself: So he can communicate with complete sentences! That is something of a story.

I heard of this story and found that it already was on Wikipedia, where on Rom Houben’s page one could read a section called “controversy”. A video was linked from the Wikipedia page and it clearly showed Rom communicating via Facilitated Communication (FC) (p?? dansk: staveplade). Now FC has exceptionally low standing in the scientific community, and immediately that would call the whole story into question. I heard Steven Laureys in one scientific conference and he seemed to me to be an ok guy—not one that would start using FC. But this story could undermine his credibility. Anibal from Spain, that I follow on Twitter, pointed me to the an entry in Neurologica Blog where commentors were also very sceptical. But one—presumably Flemish speaking—commentor pointed to a recent Belgian news article where Steven Laureys had spoken. The commentor translated it to English, and according to this Steven Laureys says:

That (FC) is a debate that troubles me much more. I myself am sceptical, and that kind of facilitated communication still has a bad reputation, and rightly so. I’m not part of that, and have never suggested using it.

So it seems the news media made this story big by not being critical about the FC. And Wikipedia is more credible?

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