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The Comatose Speak!

Well, so say communication facilitators

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.

In one of my many, many depressing jobs while I was on probation I was a medical courier. It was depressing because I went into several local doctors’ offices where toddlers were really sick, complete with the dark grey circles around the eyes and inexpressible pain and fear and no comprehension of what was going on. Some were terminal. It took zero effort to empathize with, and yet realize you could not approach the level of anguish, that must have attended the parents through this.

So, I’m not totally disdainful of the parents of autistic kids, like Jim Carrey and his wife Jennie McCarthy, who seek resource and comfort to make it better. This has included accusing vaccine manufacture of causing autism. Once started down that road, they have to continue, since an implied or overt accusation of fault can’t easily be rescinded. I certainly don’t know the cause of autism, but the evidence so far seems to exculpate vaccines. Further, there is a strong whiff of diversion from consideration of the parents’ role, like recreational drug use in their youth. It would be awful to think that not only is your child defective but you yourself caused it. I’m not aware of any studies that have been done to address this, and one wonders why. Asking the question answers it. Parents are a huge and powerful lobby group, often guilt ridden. But sometimes deservedly so.

This brings me to Rom Houben, a Belgian martial arts enthusiast, who was in a car accident 27 years ago. Diagnosed as comatose for a quarter century, he was recently announced as fully conscious all that time after a doctor, using new diagnostic imaging techniques, discovered that his brain seemed to be functioning normally three years ago. The hero who saved him is supposed top neurological expert: Dr Steven Laureys.

'Medical advances caught up with him,' said Dr Laureys, who believes there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world. That may well be true, but I’ve heard that phrase before in a totally different field. It was in what is called battlefield archaeology, and as applied to the site of Custer’s demise at the Little Bighorn. After a fire on the field in 1983, scientists descended and did an organized search for artifacts, which were found aplenty and dated and mapped to show what happened in a two hour period in 1876. It was science and you can’t argue with science.

It was eventually noted that while shell cases could be placed by date of manufacture, they couldn’t inform as to date of placement or who actually fired it, nor who it was fired at. Subsequent revelations of the salting of artifacts by field superintendents for tourists, another fire fight on the same field after Custer, undoubted random firings by passing Indians into exposed bodies and later graves, and the numerous ceremonial firings over the 133 years since, pretty much demolishes their value as informative to that two hour period. This has not gone over well.

Alert viewers of the numerous CSI type shows have eventually noted that all the science in the universe could be meaningless if the DNA sample claimed to be from a crime scene was not from the scene. It still comes down to the honesty and competence of the people at the scene.

And who was at the scene providing Rom Hoeben’s narrative of his remarkable rebirth? A speech therapist who has elevated herself to what is laughingly called a communication facilitator. These are the types who used hand puppets to get the McMartin children to verify false Satanic activities, and are used in divorce cases to damn one parent or another, and have been widely debunked. Reading what Mr. Hoeben is supposedly saying through his facilitator is like reading the supposed translations of Indian participants in our frontier wars, where Tecumseh’s speeches sound drafted by Thomas Carlisle, and Chief Joseph’s famous surrender speech was apparently the work of an Army officer. We’re to believe a man unable to communicate for 27 years is bursting with joy and literary coherence at the connection? Maybe. Likely not. And neither Dr. Laureys nor the facilitator will allow third party verification.

But the Hoeben family is ecstatic. The mother - as mothers always claim – knew her son could understand her all these years, just like Mrs. Schiavo. Eventually, communication facilitators will pose as intermediaries between parents and a child in the womb, as their ethical cousins actually do between pets and owners. This is a huge fraud, and among our holiday thanks is that there have been so few victims so far. I hope the Hoebens are not among them, but it does not look good.