Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More Doubt about Houben "Locked In" Case.

From ScienceBlogs, more concern for the nature of the science and reporting regarding the case of Rom Houben, a Belgian recently discovered to have been "locked in" for 23 years. Video at the link above.

Look at the video again. Consider the claim and compare it to what you see. Here is someone who is rapidly going from letter to letter, yet it is claimed that Ms. Wouters is "feeling for minute twitches" in Houben's forefinger. Does it seem plausible that these minute twitches can lead to such rapid typing, even with practice? Not to me. To me this looks like a clear case of facilitated communication. Basically, it's the same principle as a ouija board; it's theideomotor effect. All it is in general is what the "facilitator" hopes or wishes it to be, whether she even realizes it or not. Examining the video, it looks to me as though part of the time Mr. Houben is not even looking at the keyboard; yet his assistant keeps typing. At one point it looks as though Mr. Houben's eyes are closed. If that's not enough for you, then look at this video, where it is even clearer that Houbens is not even looking at the keyboard at various points when his facilitator is typing.


Regardless of whether Houben is locked-in or in a vegetative state, what is being shown on the videos above and described in the the news reports is indeed, as Randi put it, a cruel farce that allows the same cranks who claimed that Terri Schiavo wasn't in a persistent vegetative state to hijack the Houbens case as "proof that they might have been right." More importantly, it's horribly cruel to Houben's mother, but it's even crueler to Houben himself if it just so happens that he is conscious but locked-in. In that latter case, this "facilitator" has destroyed any chance that Houben will be able to figure out a way of communicating with the outside world, and that possibility will be precluded as long as her FC-created communication is accepted at the only way Houben can communicate.

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