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Monday, November 23, 2009

Neuroscience: Man was conscious 23 years ... but who except him knew?

At the Mail Online, Allan Hall reports (November 23, 2009) on the case of a man who was conscious for 23 years, but no one knew because he was paralyzed.

A car crash victim has spoken of the horror he endured for 23 years after he was misdiagnosed as being in a coma when he was conscious the whole time.
Rom Houben, trapped in his paralysed body after a car crash, described his real-life nightmare as he screamed to doctors that he could hear them - but could make no sound.

'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear.


Read more here.

It sounds like a horror film, and he could maybe get rich on the film rights.

Seriously, I think doctors should be much more careful with the "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) diagnoses than they sometimes are - if consequences follow. Some people - like Rom Houben, above - can be conscious without being mobile. We aren't even sure what consciousness is , after all, so why be definitive about who has it?

Here are some more articles about persistent vegetative state:

Is the patient vegetative or minimally conscious?

Neuroscience: Can locked-in sufferers tweet, using brain signals alone?

Another "human vegetable" turns out to be wired for thought

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