Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The history of medicine is replete with treatments, diagnoses, and procedures that, while well-intended at the time, we now regard with horror as being barbaric and inhumane. When future generations judge our era, one of the areas where they’ll likely be aghast is our treatment of those who we regard as lacking consciousness.

The tragic case of Rom Houben is an example of what they will find:

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.

Doctors used a range of coma tests, recognised worldwide, before reluctantly concluding that his consciousness was ‘extinct’. But three years ago, new hi-tech scans showed his brain was still functioning almost completely normally. 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.

How many people have suffered—are suffering now—because our knowledge of medicine is still in many respects inadequate and rudimentarily? It’s both shocking and humbling to think how much there is about the human body that we still don’t understand.

(Via: The Corner )

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles