Over at his website, James Randi attacks the notion that the Belgian man who supposedly emerged from a 23-year coma, claiming that he was conscious all the while, is now engaging outsiders using facilitated communication. A “helper” holds the guy’s hand while he supposedly chooses letters on a keyboard.
Anybody who has looked at these videos with an objective eye, rather than sympathetically, sees immediately that something is fishy. The typing seems to be done by the facilitator, not by the patient. The problem is highlighted in Randi’s post when he links to a video showing that the “facilitated communication” occurs when the patient seems to be asleep:
I’m enraged. Several perceptive persons have sent me to msnbc.com – where we can see Dr. Nancy Snyderman relating a story. It’s a heartrender, described thus by Dr. Snyderman:
“A mother [in Belgium] says her son has emerged from what doctors thought was a vegetative state to say he was fully conscious for 23 years but could not respond because he was paralyzed.”
No, that is not what the man said, Dr. Snyderman. That’s what an incompetent layperson typed for him! I ask you to first go to http://tinyurl.com/y8lku48, and note the section of the video from 12 to 35 seconds, then come back here.
This is the same problem that plagued similar studies of “facilitated communication” in autistic children. As far as I know, they turned out to be bogus. It’s sad, but the will to believe is strong.
UPDATE: Orac doesn’t believe it either.
h/t: Butterflies and wheels