…you had better have an improved way of checking the brain than currently exists. I mean, I’m repeating myself here, but–doctors really don’t know much about brain injury…or how the brain works…or even if it is working. As is proven by the news from the UK that doctors misdiagnosed a supposed “vegetative coma patient” for TWENTY-THREE YEARS! My comments in brackets. All emphases are mine, too.
A man thought by doctors to be in a vegetative state for 23 years was actually conscious the whole time, it was revealed last night.
Student Rom Houben was misdiagnosed after a car crash left him totally paralysed.
He had no way of letting experts, family or friends know he could hear every word they said.
‘I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,’ said Mr Houben, now 46. [doesn’t this sound like a horrific episode of The Twilight Zone? but this really happened!]
Doctors used a range of coma tests, recognised worldwide, [but apparently pretty lousy] before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was ‘extinct’. [um, ‘reluctantly’? just stick to the facts, reporter]
But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally. [if this happened three years ago, why is it only now being reported?]
“Almost completely normally”–yet it went unnoticed for twenty-three years. I don’t care how reluctant the doctors were, the fact is, they did not have a clue. I’ll let that sink into your brain, no pun intended. This is an area that I will post about whenever and wherever I find it, and it can’t be said enough: we really do not know what is going on within the trapped consciousness of these patients. “We” meaning, the experts, doctors and scientists, not to mention the family members who are making life and death decisions based on the opinion of one doctor (in most cases) with one other doctor signing off. Yet, we see that our society time and again certifies these patients for death. It’s truly horrifying. Think this is a fluke? read on.
Mr Houben, a former martial arts enthusiast, was paralysed in 1983.
Doctors in Zolder, Belgium, used the internationally accepted Glasgow Coma Scale to assess his eye, verbal and motor responses.
But each time he was graded incorrectly. [how accurate can this scale be? what criteria is used to train on reading it or interpreting it? if ‘internationally accepted’, is it being used here in our local hospitals?]
Only a re-evaluation of his case at the University of Liege discovered that he had lost control of his body but was still fully aware of what was happening.
He is never likely to leave hospital, but as well as his computer he now has a special device above his bed which lets him read books while lying down.
Mr Houben said: ‘I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me – it was my second birth.
‘I want to read, talk with my friends via the computer and enjoy my life now that people know I am not dead.’ [And thankfully he was not made to BE DEAD through the removal of food and water, which could easily happen these days.]
Dr Laureys’s new study claims that patients classed as in a vegetative state are often misdiagnosed.
‘Anyone who bears the stamp of “unconscious” just one time hardly ever gets rid of it again,’ he said.
The doctor, who leads the Coma Science Group and Department of Neurology at Liege University Hospital, found Mr Houben’s brain was still working by using state-of-the-art imaging.
He plans to use the case to highlight what he considers may be similar examples around the world. [I really want to read about those, don’t you?]
Dr Laureys said: ‘In Germany alone each year some 100,000 people suffer from severe traumatic brain injury.
‘About 20,000 are followed by a coma of three weeks or longer. Some of them die, others regain health.
‘But an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people a year remain trapped in an intermediate stage – they go on living without ever coming back again.’ [That’s a lot of people!]
Supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide argue that people who have lain in persistent vegetative states for years should be given the opportunity to have crucial medical support withdrawn because of the ‘indignity’ of their condition. [Who writes this stuff? “given the opportunity” to choke to death on their swollen tongues? What an opportunity! Yes, I am sure they wouldn’t want the indignity of life.]
But there have been several cases in which people judged to be in vegetative states or deep comas have recovered.
Twenty years ago, Carrie Coons, an 86-year-old from New York, regained consciousness after a year, took small amounts of food by mouth and engaged in conversation.
Only days before her recovery, a judge had granted her family’s request for the removal of the feeding tube which had been keeping her alive. [I hope her first act was to change her will]
In the UK in 1993, doctors switched off the life support system keeping alive Tony Bland, a 22-year- old who had been in a coma for three years following the Hillsborough disaster.
Dr Laureys was not available for comment yesterday and it is not clear why he thought Mr Houben should have the hi-tech screening when so many years had passed. [my completely uneducated guess, based on his comments, is that this is a doctor who has not sold out to the culture of death]
Let us pray for those who have received brain injuries, those who are in vegetative states and those for whom doctors and nurses are caring who may not be able to communicate with them, just as this young man was trapped within himself for 23 years. Let us pray that medicine continues to improve. And let us pray that we stamp out the widescale disposal of our medical ethics and our morals in this climate of relativism…this culture of death.
UPDATE: A Catholic bioethics expert weighs in on the case of Rom Houben
Read Full Post »