Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Facilitated Communication doesn't work! Who'd have thought it?

I posted in December about Rom Houben, the guy who'd been in a persistant vegetative state for over 20 years and who had 'miraculously' been able to communicate when a 'facilitated communicator' supported his hand so he could tap out messages on a keyboard.

Like many others, I was deeply sceptical, and it turns out that scepticism was justified. They did a very simple test and demonstrated that the 'facilitator' was just making it up. As we had suspected.

The patients were presented with words and objects while their facilitators were out of the room. When the therapists returned, the patients were asked to type out what they saw. Two out of the three facilitators, included Houbens’, failed–leading Laureys to conclude that the Belgian man wasn’t communicating in the first place.
Actually, there was a facet to the story I'd not heard before, which was that he really was mis-diagnosed as PVS. Tests not available when he was first diagnosed have revealed that he is conscious, not in a true PVS at all.
Said Laureys [one of Rom's doctors]: “The story of Rom is about the diagnosis of consciousness, not communication” [BBC].

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