Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Houben Story Now?

I've been wondering for the past day or so why the story of Rom Houben, the Belgian man reported to have been erroneously diagnosed as in a coma for 23 years, is erupting now. After all, Steven Laureys, the doctor who "discovered" Houben was in a locked in state, made this discovery almost three years ago.

The nature of the reporting and the science is being questioned by neurologists and bioethicists across the blogosphere (see my prior posts).

Some reports on "pro-life" sites claim Laureys consulted in the Terri Schiavo case. And Laureys, according to a very impressive bio online, was an invited guest to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life's International Congress on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative States: Scientific Advancements and Ethical Dilemmas" conference in 2004.

Laureys, along with other colleagues, recently published a paper that addresses the diagnosis, hence the media noise now.

But oddly, the timing is perfect for the Vatican and "pro-life" groups. It comes just as Ethical and Religious Directives, the laws that govern Catholic hospitals, hospices and other medical facilities, have been changed to classify artificial nutrition and hydration as "obligatory" and the church has stepped up their activism on health care reform and aid in dying advocacy here in the US. Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, a full-time "pro-life" speaker whose religious "rebirth" was caused by his sister's death, and the leader of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, wrote an article two months ago that called for the eradication of the persistent vegetative state diagnosis.

I am encouraged by some of the online research and reporting about this story, so sensationalized by the bigger media outlets.

Sensational health care conclusions here,

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