He Heard Every Word!

This is horrendous. I don't even want to imagine it because it freaks me out. A guy in a car crash was believed by doctors to be in a "vegetative state" for 23 years. BUT HE WAS CONSCIOUS THE ENTIRE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can you believe that? 23 years of internally screaming "I'm in here!!!" and nobody can hear you? And although this story has what you could classify as a happy ending I can't help but think of the people who've been starved to death because doctors believed incorrectly that they were in a "vegetative state."

The Daily Mail reports:
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,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegetative state.

'I dreamed myself away,' he added, tapping his tale out with the aid of a computer.

But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally.

Mr Houben described the moment as 'my second birth'. Therapy has since allowed him to tap out messages on a computer screen.

Mr Houben said: 'All that time I just literally dreamed of a better life. Frustration is too small a word to describe what I felt.'

His case has only just been revealed in a scientific paper released by the man who 'saved' him, 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.

The disclosure will also renew the right-to-die debate over whether people in comas are truly unconscious.
Ya' think? You'd hope that something like this would humble the doctors who are quick to starve those in a "vegetative state." It probably won't.

This is similar to discovering a truly innocent man on death row. When that happens that should make death penalty advocates think twice, shouldn't it? So when it turns out that what we call a "vegetative state" might just be a condition we don't yet have the tools to diagnose, shouldn't we reconsider starving people to death with the same diagnosis?

HT Ace of Spades


  1. Oh, my goodness. That poor man. Wow.

  2. The truly remarkable thing is that he did not go completely mad.

  3. Robert, you're right ... I would have gone insane! It's a miracle that he didn't.

    I have a question... If a person is just old, and their body is shutting down and they won’t / can't swallow anymore, is it the position of the Church to give them a feeding tube and IV’s? Or can people continue giving them as much water and nutrition as possible naturally?

    This is an honest question, I just don't know what the Church has said (not trying to pick any fights).

  4. I hate to reference Metallica, but there is a version of the song "one" that intersperses a similar narrative... scary stuff!

  5. Suz-
    food and water is basic care; that's the only position I'm aware of.
    (There's a big push to redefine it as "medical care," which would make it something you can turn down...or be refused.)

  6. Suz,

    It's my understanding that a feeding tube and/or IV constitutes basic care and should not be denied as long as the body is able to process them. If the person's health declines to the point that their organs are shutting down and are not able to process food or nutrients or whatever, then you may remove the feeding tube or IV.

  7. Hey, Suz,

    Yeah, the Church defines food and water as basic care, and not medical treatment, because we ALL need it! "But the food is mushy or liquid, and fed through a tube," someone might object. Like baby food, or a milkshake, or the feeding of a person with a wired jaw.

    A basic principle for determining whether the contemplated measure (in this case, removing feeding) is permissible, you might ask, "If we did this to a perfectly normal person, what would be the result?" If the answer is negative, then we probably shouldn't go to far in considering that measure. That's because the difference between a normal person and a sick person, or a handicapped person and an undisabled person, is not really a very clear, bright line.

    Ventilators, for instance, are pretty clearly "extraordinary medical interventions." Provided the patient is apparently more or less permanently unconscious and a reasonable amount of time has been allowed to pass to make sure, the Church allows ventilators to be removed - with the intention of permitting nature to take its course. Sometimes the person keeps breathing; other times, the person would have died right off the bat in a time before ventilators. Simply having a technology does not mean that we have to use it indefinitely to artificially prop up someone's life when it is unclear that he or she is benefiting from being alive anyway.

    But there is nothing "medical" about food or water. We all need them, and to deprive someone of them until he dies (as in the case of Terri Schiavo) is nothing short of murder.

  8. This is exactly why euthanasia is a bad example. What if the family of this man decided or the medical community decided that this man was not worthy to live and pulled the plug or gave him a shot of morphine in lethal dosage.

  9. Suz,
    I've longed explored this question because my 89 y.o. father, even as we speak, is slowly withdrawing from life. He has dementia/Alzheimer's, and I needed to know what options were within church teaching. Because he is nearing the end of life and it is natural for someone in that state to begin to refuse food and/or drink, we (his family) do not have an obligation to tube-feed him, but to offer supportive care as he requires (offering food or drink if he wishes it, but not forcing it on him if he doesn't). This is a question we researched LONG before it became a more immediate concern.

  10. Suz, I agree with Nancy, but not all Catholics do. The rule is that food and water are ordinary care and must be given, even by feeding tube, as long as they achieve their intended "finality"(purpose) of nourishing the individual and are not an undue burden on him.
    I have observed what happens when people like Nancy's 89 year old father with dementia are put on tube feedings when they stop eating as a result of their disease process and/or old age. I have written long posts about this on other blogs over the past several years (You might google my name or "Eulogos" along with a keyword like "tube feeding" and find some of them.) It involves diarrhea and skin breakdown and aspiration pneumonia and antibiotics and more diarrhea and skin breakdown and the insertion of catheters to prevent contamination of sores, and resulting urinary tract infections and more antibiotics and more..
    Basically you are insisting that the person not die of the natural process of ceasing to desire food or water, but of aspiration pneumonia or sepsis. Even though the food keeps them alive longer, it isn't really achieving its proper finality.
    Suffering which circumstances impose on people can be redemptive, but we certainly shouldn't impose it on purpose, for no good reason!
    Susan Peterson


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