Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Miracle That Isn't

In November of last year, there was a big stir in the news about how a Belgian man who had been in a vegetative state for 23 years was able to communicate with the help of a speech therapist and a touchpad. The story was hailed as a breakthrough, a miracle, etc.

Only one problem: the man can't actually communicate using the methods people claimed he was using. At least the doctor who originally brought forth those claims in November had the decency to admit his own further study has shown the method doesn't work as claimed. His study results were presented yesterday in London. He still believes his patient is more conscious than such patients are generally thought to be. But of course, we don't have any way of proving that.

Back in November, many people expressed skepticism toward the original claims, but on most of the news sites, that skepticism was buried in the comments. Kudos to the BBC for putting the debunking front and center (Note: many sources incorrectly say that the patient was in a coma instead of a vegetative state). There's also an article in the New York Times, but I had to search to find it.

I completely sympathize with this man's family. It's often in the aftermath of something really terrible that people are most prone to being duped like this. Shame on those who promote their quackery by preying on grieving families.

(via BBC News)

No comments:

Post a Comment