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This Cruel Farce Has To Stop! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Update!

For those who may need further evidence for my contention, the proof can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ye9d9lp -- where it is clearly seen that the “facilitator” is looking directly at the keyboard, while the subject is asleep! There can be no further doubt.  This FC claim is simply untrue, a farce, a lie – and the “facilitator” knows it! And no, this man is not going to write a book, but the "facilitator" is, and if this humbug is not stopped, she'll make a fortune doing so. Put a stop to this, someone!"

But who will see that the caretakers for this unfortunate man are corrected and made to answer for this situation?

Original article:

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 yet another obvious example of abysmal, practiced, purposeful ignorance by medical personnel - including Dr. Snyderman and her staff who prepared this piece. I cannot understand how anyone, professional medical person or layman, can continue to believe that the farce known as "Facilitated Communication" [FC] represents anything other than a fantasy that was begun back in 1977, when an Australian woman named Rosemary Crossley came up with the idea that autistic persons could express their thoughts via a keyboard when their hand was "supported" by what she called a "facilitator." In 1989, Douglas Biklen, a sociologist and professor of special education at Syracuse University, eagerly took up her cause, and as a result vast sums were donated to SU by friends and family members of autism victims - money that was simply wasted in futile "research."

I personally investigated this matter. In March of 1992 I was contacted by Dr. Anne M. Donnellan, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who asked if I would be willing to participate in an investigation of FC as used with autistic children. I was already familiar with FC, and suggested to her that I felt the researchers were perhaps under the influence of the Clever Hans Effect [CHE], also known as the "ideomotor effect,"  in which the trainer - the facilitator in this case - was unconsciously transmitting the information to the autistic child. This possibility was emphatically denied by Dr. Donnellan, and I was assured that every care had been taken to ensure that the CHE was not in operation. The Clever Hans Effect is notorious in psychology. Early in the last century, a horse named Clever Hans - in German, der Kluge Hans - was claimed to have been able to perform arithmetic and other simple intellectual tasks. In 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst showed conclusively that the horse was not actually performing these mental tasks, but was reacting to cues provided by his trainer.

My tests of autistic children at the University of Wisconsin-Madison clearly showed that FC was simply a tragic farce.  My findings were totally ignored. The full account of this matter will be discussed in detail in my next book, A Magician in the Laboratory.

The "facilitated communication" process consists of the "facilitator" actually holding the hand of the subject over the keyboard, moving the hand to the key, then drawing the hand back from the keyboard! This very intimate participatory action lends itself very easily to transferring the intended information to the computer screen. In the video you have just viewed, it is very evident that (a) the "facilitator" is looking directly at the keyboard and the screen, and (b) is moving the subject's hand. The video editing is also biased, giving angles that line up the head of the subject with the screen, as if the subject were watching the screen.

This man in the msnbc.com piece is not seeing the screen. He is not aware of what is going on. He is an unknowing victim of these charlatans. A simple test - such as that done on October 19th, 1993, in a Frontline (PBS) documentary highlighting these concerns, "Prisoners of Silence," would prove that FC is a total fraud.  This powerful and comprehensive program proved that FC was a delusion.

Dr. Snyderman, how did this get by you? The evidence is right there on the screen! Others have solved this fraud. The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Association on Mental Retardation, have no doubts about this. ABAI calls FC a "discredited technique" and warns that "its use is unwarranted and unethical." The Association for Science in Autism Treatment reviewed the research and position statements and concluded that the messages typed were controlled by the facilitator, not by the individual with autism, and that FC did not improve language skills.

We critics of FC question why people can apparently give speeches in public - via a keyboard and a "facilitator" - and go to college - similarly "assisted" - yet they cannot answer a series of simple questions under controlled conditions! Psychologist Daniel Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard University and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that facilitated communication is a striking example of the ideomotor effect, and tests of FC show that it is a complete fraud, farce, and delusion!

Please, Dr. Snyderman, may we hear from you, in light of what appears here?

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written by MadScientist, November 23, 2009
Such a simple-minded deception that even a child can do it - and yet people still fall for it? Why do people long so much to see things they want to believe that they throw out sensibility and don't look for the tricks?
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written by lippard, November 23, 2009
That video sure looks like FC, but the news stories say he was diagnosed as "locked-in" via brain scans and because he could answer yes/no questions with a foot pedal.

This needs more investigation, I think.
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Foot pedal?
written by Ted Powell, November 23, 2009
...he could answer yes/no questions with a foot pedal.
According to the HuffPo article,
...he was able to indicate yes or no by slightly moving his foot to push a computer device placed there by Laureys' team.
That's "push" as opposed to "press down on". Was a "facilitator" "holding Houben's chair steady" at the time?
I'm not saying Houben isn't conscious, just that I haven't seen any (reports of) convincing evidence.
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Yeah, I dunno...
written by Wolfman, November 23, 2009
...other reports that I've read indicate that he had "locked in" syndrome, and that long before any of this 'communication' stuff started, PET scans revealed that he was in fact neither comatose or in a vegetative state. Efforts since making this realization have enabled a limited degree of communication to at least confirm that he is conscious.

I think that Randi might have jumped the gun a little on this one. There's much more to this story than claims of assisted communication.
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written by Otara, November 24, 2009
Thats almost certainly an ideomotor effect.

While theres the other information about scans etc you have to be extremely dubious about overall credibility of the piece given that video clip. If they haven't released info about how they eliminated it as a potential effect, you'd have to wonder - its possible that there is brain activity but they've stuffed up the actual communicating part for instance, the potential for 'we had a brain reading so there must be the possibility of real communication' would be one obvious possibility as a confirmatory bias issue.
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I found the FRONTLINE report
written by haha, November 24, 2009
It is at the bottom of

http://www.baam.emich.edu/baamresources/baamvideo.htm

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I think...........................
written by Sylverlea, November 24, 2009
I think randy was only commenting on the elaboration on the story by his "facilitator". Yes he was mistakenly thought to be in a coma and, I am not sure as to exactly what test his doctors did But they did confirm he was awake. That is what is wrong with that story, it should have focused on the science his doctor where doing not on this lark that he can talk to us when clearly he can't, That doesn't make the story any less amazing. I hope people will see it for what it is, a man came back from deaths door unfortunately he can not tell us his story about what it was like to be "lock in". If he was always "Lock in" or if he "woke up" like that later on. I am sure his family is desperate to know what happen to there loved one. I am sorry FC is not the answer.
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written by sleipnir214, November 24, 2009
If this is real, then a person who is "locked in" can actually be spared the horror of being conscious yet unable to interact with the world. If it is not, a family is getting their collective hopes falsely raised by a "facilitator" who is using the patient like a muppet.

It seems a very simple double-blind test could resolve this one pretty quickly.
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written by jpgmoniz, November 24, 2009
Thank you Mr. Randi for this blog entry. When i first saw the video I found it strange that the person was directing his hand and finger on the keyboard. And now seeing sometimes I can see that it is an fraud. My only question is that I heard that some doctors have made a scan of his brain? Why did they do such thing if they toughted he was in a deep coma? It is really strange! I never heard of this "Facilitated Communication" before, but now I am glad I read your post.
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written by Tim Harrod, November 24, 2009
All the more shameful since it seems easy to do a properly blinded test of: Facilitator leaves the room, do or show something memorable, bring back the facilitator and ask the patient what happened.
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written by latsot, November 24, 2009
@Harrod, T

Very yes. Nobody involved seems to have been interested in doing such a simple test. I'm inclined to excuse the grieving mother but not the press.

The BBC posted a video that was *clearly* edited to make it look as though Rom was looking at the screen (closeups of his face then closeups of his hand being made to type) even though in most of the rest of the footage he wasn't looking at the screen at all. Don't tell me that editing was innocent.
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written by LovleAnjel, November 24, 2009
If he is locked-in, I can't imagine the frustration he must feel that someone is making him type things he is not thinking.
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written by latsot, November 24, 2009
@LovleAnjel

That's a good point, I worry about that too. All the more reason to just test it once and for all.
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Thank you for supporting science and rationality in disabilities treatment
written by James T. Todd, Ph.D., November 24, 2009
Mr. Randi:

Thank you once again for your efforts to help stop the cruel exploitation of people with disabilities.

The continuing abuse of people who cannot speak for themselves is a tragedy. That those in the news media remain so uninformed or unobservant that they report these things as miracles or breakthroughs compounds the problem.

For those who might harbor doubts that what is going on in this case has all the hallmarks of FC, an extended video of an attendant using Mr. Hoeben's hand to type messages can be seen on CNN:

http://tinyurl.com/yf2ggdt

Even if Mr. Hoeben has some consciousness of what is going on, FC is not going to get it out. There are tested and effective methods of helping people who cannot move to communicate. FC is not one of them.

We have seen CNN's Sanjay Gupta fall for this stuff. He was considered for Surgeon General. Now it's Nancy Synderman, ITV's Robert Moore, and who knows how many others? We have seen Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor--a Stanford-trained Ph.D. in psychology--champion FC, actually putting anecdote above science. We have seen untold sums spent a method that has failed every scientific test and cannot be made to work under even the most benign testing conditions. We have seen people go to jail due to false facilitated allegations--the most recently last year in Michigan.

http://tinyurl.com/8v77m5

What we don't see is any semblance of ethics or responsibility among those who continue to promote a method that has harmed untold numbers of people. It is not just that using FC stands in the way of doing effective treatments. It is not just that FC advocates deny and attack science, pretending that the methodological nightmares they continue to publish in journals such as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities actually support their thoroughly discredited claims. FC advocates push a method that very literally steals the identities of individuals who cannot do anything about it, replacing the real person with a fantasy of someone else's making. Who would have believed that it would be OK to exploit helpless people and their desperate loved ones in this manner? Who would believe that the media would work so hard to promote such a thing instead of exposing it for the pseudoscience that it is?

Once again Mr. Randi, thank you for your work on behalf of rationality and science.

James T. Todd, Ph.D.
Eastern Michigan University





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12-35 second footage question, Lowly rated comment [Show]
12-35 second footage question
written by Ted Powell, November 24, 2009
She could equally have been showing him how to use the device while the camera was rolling.
Suppose we were to accept your hypothesis? Where would that leave us? It would leave us with the knowledge that the woman knows how to work the device. This would hardly be persuasive support for the thesis of the original story!
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written by latsot, November 24, 2009
The edit is very odd, but I see other possible explanations for this footage other than a manipulation.


Me too. BUT WE CAN TEST IT. In about five minutes. Why has nobody bothered to do this yet?
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written by latsot, November 24, 2009
Reporters are funny people. They like nothing better than finding someone to blame, regardless of whether that's even appropriate. So it's strange that they haven't found anyone to crucify in this story. Why haven't they taken the person who made the original diagnosis to task? Why haven't they taken apart that person's qualifications and personal habits?

Because there is no story at all.
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James T Todd
written by ClareZ, November 24, 2009
I hope you passed on your observations to msnbc.com also.
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Thanx Randi !
written by Dr.Sid, November 24, 2009
And there I thought how great moment that was. Poor fellow.
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Randi's left agenda exposed......., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by DrMatt, November 24, 2009
Stephen Hawking uses real facilitated communication. What comes out is precise, detailed, and far beyond the capabilities of his nurses. He accomplishes it when no nurses are present.

It takes him a long time.

But he's famous for what he thinks and what he says, not the fact that he says anything at all.
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written by MadScientist, November 24, 2009
I'm infuriated by this nonsense too. The Associated Press article puts in a few words from the token skeptic then continues with the nonsense promoting that huckster "Dr." Steven Laureys - they're giving him a lot of free advertisement. Sylvia Browne with a few machines that go "ping!" It must be easy money robbing traumatized people.
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A very simple test would resolve this...
written by CGHJ, November 24, 2009
It would take about 60 seconds to answer this question conclusively (at least in this case).

1) Have the FC leave the room.
2) Tell something to the patient to remember a word, something very simple, like "dog"
3) Have the FC come back in and 'help' the patient type the word.

Bing bam boom, you'd know for certain. Randi, having more experience setting up tests of this sort, could no doubt make some suggestions as to how to absolutely and completely 'blinded'.

This is too important not to do such a test. Either he's in there and he needs all the help he can get to communicate, or he's not and his poor friends and relations are living with the horrible guilt of not knowing he was in there the whole time for no reason whatsoever.

If I'm ever in that situation, you'll know it's me communicating because my first words will be, 'turn off the damn life support!'
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written by Caller X, November 24, 2009
written by DrMatt, November 24, 2009
Stephen Hawking uses real facilitated communication. What comes out is precise, detailed, and far beyond the capabilities of his nurses. He accomplishes it when no nurses are present.

It takes him a long time.


Wrong. He does not use "real facilitated communication." He uses a DECtalk DTC01 voice synthesizer which he controls with his cheek (if Wikepedia can be believed, praise Eris).
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written by MadScientist, November 24, 2009
@jpgmoniz: The brain scans are a scam. The self-proclaimed "Dr." Laureys claims to scan and test patients in a vegetative state and tell relatives if the person really is vegetative or if the person simply can't communicate. Laureys even says sometimes he has to tell the family that their relative really is vegetative - you know, just as Sylvia Browne and numerous other self-proclaimed psychics claim that "you have to be careful - there are many frauds out there who claim to be psychic". Laureys and his pretentious testing is every bit a fraud as FC.
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written by stacyhead, November 24, 2009
I'm so glad you are exposing this. This is a case of media taking off with the story half cocked and not bothering to do the research on FC.
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written by metzomagic, November 24, 2009
My reaction to this is similar to Randi's: it makes my blood boil. And the press are so credulous as to strain credulity itself!

If you haven't already, you *must* read the transcript of that Prisoners of Silence Frontline segment that Randi links to in the OP. They did absolutely conclusive blind tests with 9 facilitators and 12 autistic clients. In 180 trials, *not one* question was answered correctly when the facilitator didn't see what the client saw! And yet... and yet... these people at Syracuse are apparently still around? It boggles the mind. Parents have been prosecuted for abusing their children based on this charade, which has been completely discredited. It's a disgrace!
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Pointless & unethical to speculate...act., Lowly rated comment [Show]
Amazing...
written by CasaRojo, November 24, 2009
I watched this story on CBS, ABC and MSNBC this morning. No less than four different doctors spoke on this and NONE said a word about FC. Are they all totally ignorant of FC? I'm just a regular guy, a bit on the seriously curious side mind you, and I knew it was bunk. How could they not know? WTF?
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@Rosemary
written by JeffWagg, November 24, 2009
The terms and conditions are the boilerplate for this software. They were not written by the JREF.
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written by latsot, November 24, 2009
Rosemary, why do you have such a bee in your bonnet? I suspect everyone here would be *delighted* if Rom beat the odds and was genuinely able to communicate. All we are saying is that the evidence we've seen doesn't suggest that he can.

If this is indeed the case, then it would be awful if this community stood by and let the claims go unchallenged. We'd be advocating false hope and destructive fantastic thinking. You're right that the claims about Rom are easy to test, but I think the people making those claims are the ones with the responsibility to carry out those tests, aren't they?
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written by JWideman, November 24, 2009
The first time I heard of FC was about 20 years ago, when a segment aired on TV. It had a young man with severe autism who would look everywhere BUT the keyboard and screen. His "facilitator", of course, did. I remember wondering "How does the facilitator know what he's thinking?"
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Cruel Indeed
written by mhutch47, November 24, 2009
Thank you so much Randi for taking this on. When I first saw some of the stills, "facilitated communication" was the first thing that jumped to mind. I've been trying to get the word out through all my social media networks and by commenting on blogs, but given the big media outlet bias toward sensationalism at the expense of real journalism, it feels like screaming into the wind. Tried to get this story to Derren Brown given that I first saw it in the Guardian, but not sure if he's seen it yet. You're in contact w/ him, right? Maybe he can help set the story right in the UK while you work on it here in the states.

This is so cruel I can hardly stomach it. I remember watching that Frontline documentary on FC back in College and it seemed there weren't really any bad guys in the whole mix. This is not the same. Unlike in the Syracuse study, this "Doctor" has the benefit of research at his back and certainly knows that FC doesn't hold up to even the simplest tests. In fact, I'd wager he strongly pushed for FC in lieu of an eye-gaze AAC device, knowing this would be the only way to get the results he wanted.

Not as convinced as Randi that the facilitator knows she's a fraud, though the video certainly does seem to indicate that she's said "to hell with the ideomotor effect, it'll be quicker if I just type it out myself." However, there's always the possibility we're seeing it in a different context. Having worked behind the camera myself, I can see this kind of a scenario play out:
Producer: Okay, make sure you get video of the device and how it works for B-roll.
Videographer: But he's asleep, I can't just wake him up.
Producer: Then have the nurse or facilitator show you how it works. The guy is practically a vegetable. We need some motion or else it will just look static.
Videographer: Fine, I'll see what I can get.

I'm not saying that's how it went down. I'm just saying it's a possibility, so I'm not ready to condemn the facilitator just yet. As was the case with the SU facilitators, I think most of them truly believe they are helping connect a grieving parent and his or her child.

Of course, the biggest villains IMHO are the news media, who would only have to ask a couple basic questions to realize this is not an open and shut case of a man with locked-in syndrome for 23 years.

Here's how that scenario should've played out:
Reporter: So, explain to me Doctor why that woman has to hold his wrist in order for him to communicate.
Doctor: It has to do with muscle weakness, several other factors. The practice has been around for over 3 decades now.
Reporter: And what's the name of that practice?
Doctor: "Facilitated Communication."

The reporter then goes back to the office, types facilitated communication into the search bar and whaddya know...it's a crock of sh*t.

But he and his editor either don't ask that question or knowingly decide to ignore the FC aspect in place of the more sensationalized angle of a man who has been trapped in his body for 23 years. Shameful and cruel.
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written by Macinnis, November 24, 2009
Wired magazine has written an article on this. They quote Randi. http://www.wired.com/wiredscie.../#comments
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Challenge ?
written by Dr.Sid, November 24, 2009
Wired writes about direct challenge from Randi .. but it is not on this site .. how come ?
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written by eablair, November 24, 2009

http://www.usatoday.com/news/h...ose_N.htm

"Dr. Steven Laureys said he has discovered some degree of consciousness using state-of-the-art equipment in other patients but won't say how many. He looks at about 50 cases from around the world a year but none are as extreme as that of Rom Houben, who was fully conscious inside a paralyzed body. Many center on the fine distinction between a vegetative state and minimal consciousness.

He said Tuesday that: "It is very difficult to tell the difference."

His studies showed that some 40% of patients with consciousness disorders are wrongly given a diagnosis of a vegetative state."


Laureys is claiming to find an effect which is-

-Not seen by other scientists or MDs
-Only seen on his special equipment
-Very difficult to see (in other words just on the edge of detectability)

This seems to be a classic case of Pathological science.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_science

"Pathological science, as defined by Langmuir, is a psychological process in which a scientist, originally conforming to the scientific method, unconsciously veers from that method, and begins a pathological process of wishful data interpretation (see the Observer-expectancy effect, and cognitive bias). Some characteristics of pathological science are:

The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.
The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.
There are claims of great accuracy.
Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.
Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.
The ratio of supporters to critics rises and then falls gradually to oblivion."


In addition to the reward of founding a new theory add the reward of being a hero to bereaved family members who have finally found someone who will give them the "right" answer.
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Randi Challenge
written by JamesTTodd, November 24, 2009
To Dr. Sid and others:

An earlier version of the JREF facilitated communication challenge can be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/yzd2rzd

It is probably not a surprise that no one in the Oakland County Autism group took Mr. Randi up on the offer.

The Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) resolution against the use of facilitated communication, referenced in Mr. Randi's letter, may be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/2lsneq

Those interested may join the 400-plus supporters of science and rationality in developmental disabilities treatment.

James T. Todd, Ph.D.

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I call it bs until proven otherwise
written by szyszek, November 24, 2009
Having never heard of FC before I found it strange that a woman was guiding his hand but I assumed that this was unrelated to his answers (she was teaching or training him for instance). What I found really incredible is that the guy is giving precise and intelligent answers after laying in bed without any stimulus for 23 years. I would think anyone would go crazy after such a long time, crazy and not being able to distinguish between dreams and reality. There is a difference between saying "I was born for the second time" and giving yes and no answers to simple questions by moving your foot. We may never know the truth unless there is an independent verification, however I doubt that his happy family or his proud doctors are willing to risk it.
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written by Dumb All Over, November 24, 2009
Mr. Randi,

At the beginning of the video in your update, a woman passes behind the patient, circles to his front, and puts her face in front of his. His body reacts with a jolt. It looks to me the woman imperceptibly blew air into the eyes of the patient, causing an involuntary muscle reaction. Sad. What's more, I think the woman might be his mother.
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Wiki !
written by Dr.Sid, November 24, 2009
Some good guy linked this very article on Rom Houben article on Wikipedia, and 'controversy' section occupies half the page at the moment. Still on Google the official story wins big time.
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written by Alareth, November 24, 2009
Dr. Art Caplan, the head of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania wieghs in on this over at msnbc http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34132340/
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written by Skeptigirl, November 24, 2009
The video of the woman typing out a sentence for the man is clearly fake FC. If he was that immobile, how could he possibly move his hand to those keys that fast? And he isn't even looking, HIS EYES ARE SHUT!!! Only the woman is looking at the keyboard.

And the news media just sucks it up on face value. What a shame. It would be interesting to see what the PET scan revealed but this garbage is not interesting science at all, unless you are interested in why people are so easily duped.
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written by lippard, November 24, 2009
This Times Online story tries to answer the criticisms:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6930608.ece
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written by Otara, November 24, 2009
That article says the only confirmation done was one person saying they asked about stuff while alone in the room - not what Id call rigorous testing.

It also describes in detail that the assistant is steering his hand to talk, removing the possibility the video was simply a misinterpretation.
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Poll on MSNBC
written by szyszek, November 24, 2009
There is a poll on MSNBC asking readers if they believe the story. Surprisingly enough, as of this moment, 70% do not, 17% not sure and only 13% say yes. Also, a skeptical article regarding this guy is placed on front page right under the earlier article that has been updated with details of the controversy. I was afraid that skeptics will only read about FC right here, but it looks like mainstream media is now questioning it. Good sign!
Link to the poll:
http://health.newsvine.com/_qu...you-buy-it
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Frontline Video
written by Karkfum, November 24, 2009
The Frontline video: http://video.google.com/videop...200920717#
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written by RobWills, November 24, 2009
I had a brief but encouraging exchange with one of our local TV newscasters over this story.

I noticed that this story ran on our local 6:30 PM news. I was surprised, as I thought by that time, it was becoming obvious that what was originally reported was coming under question.

I sent an email to the lead anchor who read the story. Almost immediately I got a reply back, in which he promised to keep an eye on the story.

Just minutes later, he actually forwarded me a copy of the story that came in over the AP questioning the facts.

I noticed that when the local news ran again at 10:00 PM, this story did not run. (Of course, that could have been for any number of reasons. Maybe it was because the time was taken up with the anchor interviewing a local big-wig politician. smilies/cheesy.gif)

Anyway, I found it to be an encouraging interaction with a "media" person.
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My humorous take...
written by MarkEMarkEMark, November 24, 2009
I've written a blog post on my William Satire Jr. site about this...

http://williamsatirejr.blogspot.com/

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...
written by Blaine Sternin, November 25, 2009
I watched this video earlier today before I read Randi's article and I came to the same conclusions that the facilitator was talking not the patient. I came to that conclusion because they say he is paralyzed and he can only move his finger yet in the video his whole arm and hand is moving..... Then after I read Randi's article I watched the video again and it is clear that the patient is fast asleep yet he is supposedly communicating. If true he sure has a talent to be able to sleep and talk at the same time..... Maybe I can practice that one on the wife.....
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Can't wait for the book. Not.
written by jcwept, November 25, 2009
Will it be in diary format, one wonders. Or perhaps a stream of unconsciousness.
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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
written by Pinkymcfatfat, November 25, 2009
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" was a autobiography (later, a film) written in French by a magazine editor (Jean-Dominique Bauby) with locked in syndrome.

The process was painstaking. Bauby used only his left eye (his right had been sewn shut)to blink for the correct letter in an alphabet recited by his transcriber, it was a long, long process. Mr. Bauby worked for over four hours a day on his book...can you imagaine the amount of blinking he had to do?

Mr. Bauby did NOT have someone holding his hand quickly hittting letters on a screen.

My question is, if this gentleman in Belgium can read and answer questions via F.C., then why can't he answer simple 'yes/no' questions via a system of blinks? Sadly, I think it's because this is the case of a severly handicapped person being taken advantage of by someone who wants to further their own career.
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Madscientist
written by Culmidon, November 25, 2009
Unfortunately, you answer your own question, "Why do people long so much to see things they want to believe that they throw out sensibility and don't look for the tricks?"[/1] It is exactly for the reason that they want to believe that their loved one is not lost to them. What parent, given the same type of situation, wouldn't be heartbroken to be told that their child is never going to be able to communicate with them ever again. And on the other side of the coin, what parent wouldn't want to try absolutely everything to get back some semblance of a relationship with their child? So, in the midst of their emotional upheaval, who can really blame the parents for not being rigorously scientific.

Not so the doctors, however. They should be held to a much, much higher standard. Especially when (and I wish I could remember on exactly which program I saw this) an 11-year-old girl created a short, effective test showing that "FC" was completely false. Simply put, she created a box which showed two pictures, one to the patient and one to the "facilitator." Neither could see what the other saw. Each was then shown a different picture -- say a dog to the patient and an airplane to the "facilitator" and, sure enough, the patient always "saw" the picture shown to the "facilitator." (Sorry for the multiple use of quotation marks, I just can't bring myself, in this instance, to type that word without them.

Finally, allow me to add my thanks to the ever growing list of people thanking Mr. Randi for his work. I truly believe this world would be a much more credulous place with his work, and the work of the JREF. Now, I'm off to type a letter to the good folks at MSNBC.com, asking them how they could allow this kind of thing to go unchallenged, especially by their medical correspondent.
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Oops!
written by Culmidon, November 25, 2009
Sorry folks, please accept my apologies for bad tags, and the subsequent post all in italics. My fingers must be getting old!
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Oops, again.
written by Culmidon, November 25, 2009
OK, this will be my last post today, I promise. In my last paragraph of the original post, it should read, "...this world would be a much more credulous place without his work..."
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A voice of reason...
written by Culmidon, November 25, 2009
Hi gang, it's me again! I was over at the MSNBC.com website, to complain about their almost completely credulous reporting of this story, when I found an article by a Dr. Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., who is described at the end of the article as the Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is a link to his excellent article.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34...alth_care/
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FC really works
written by questors, November 25, 2009
Facilitated Communication is a wonderful tool for letting those without words be heard. I should know; I used it on my dog. He was able to tell me poignant stories of the day he was taken from his mother, of abuse from the cat while I'm at work, and the joy he gets from going for a ride in the car. My dog - who turns out to be quite articulate - and I have a much closer relationship now that I know his innermost thoughts. Don't put down FC until you've tried it.
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@Culmidon Re: A voice of reason...
written by MAL_JD, November 25, 2009
I was actually about to post that link when I saw your post.

I wanted to add by posting the following, from the end of the article (bold emphasis mine).

I hope that Houben was misdiagnosed. I wish him and his family only the best. But the issues involved in his case are so important and some of the techniques being used to claim that he is communicating are so suspect that we need to learn a lot more before simply accepting the fact that someone has survived a severe, paralyzing injury to the brain and 23 years later is sending moving messages through an aide who guides his fingers on a computer keyboard.


I think this is quite telling. Almost as telling as his,
I'm sure this isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I, for one, don't buy it.
from the beginning of the piece.

It is nice to see that MSNBC has some critical thinking going on. Kudos to Rani for the original post and Culmidon for posting the MSNBC link smilies/smiley.gif
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..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by Ted Powell, November 25, 2009
Kudos to ... Culmidon for posting the MSNBC link
And to Alareth, who posted a link to the same article yesterday.
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Was the "Science" part of this story real?
written by JJoseph, November 25, 2009
This has been an interesting story to follow. Although I am left a little confused. I totally agree that FC is nothing more than woo. But this story started out by a brain scan that seems to indicate that Rom Houben's brain was in fact conscious and not vegetative. Is that part true? I hear of brain scans all the time looking for damage. Especially nowadays relating to sports injuries. Is the technology so advanced after 23 years that we are assured that is brain is conscious and cognitive?
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written by Gumba Masta, November 25, 2009
Oh my, the way you describe "FC" reminds me of the time I took out a loan, well minus the loaded gun being held to my temple.
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Davis - Bias? Sure.
written by gfpatterson, November 25, 2009
(I voted your comment up just in case others are voting it down; I think it's worth a brief digression.)

If you accept the premise that "Global Warming" (whatever that means to you) is simply a left-wing political opinion, then, yes, I could understand your perception of "bias". Being a science-oriented blog, most of the readers (myself included) accept the preponderance of research that the earth seems to be warming, and that some statistically significant part of that is due to man-made carbon output from the Industrial Revolution to the present.

So, it's fair to say that I am "biased" against someone who just tosses out his/her "opinion" that this is not true.

Having said that, I'm not married to the idea. I'll listen to your sources. Just please refrain from secondary or tertiary sources like Bill O'Riley or Glenn Beck.
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...
written by migod11, November 25, 2009
Although I agree that most of the English language videos referred to here are probably 'staged', here's a link to the Belgian Dutch (state) television report of the thing. http://www.deredactie.be/permalink//1.640381
The rhytm of the conversation is much more sedate, and in my opinion the facilitator may well be reacting to real muscle movements by the patient (maybe occasionally finishing words) of Rom Houben.
For those of you not fluent in Dutch, here's a transcript and translation of the fragment: (Interviewer = I, facilitator = F)
I: wat is jouw verste herinnering eigenlijk, wat herinner jij je nog? (What is is your earliest memory, what do you remember?)
F: je krijgt een vraag terug: van wat ? (You're getting a question back: of what?)
I: bijvoorbeeld, herinner jij je het ongeval nog? (for example, do remember the accident?)
F: OK, hij zegt nee, wilde ik ook niet, ik weet ervan, maar uit verhalen. (OK, he says no, but i didn't want to (remember), I know about it, but from stories)
I: Ja, en na het ongeval dacht iedereen dat je in coma was, maar dat was niet het geval. (Yes, and after the accident, everybody thought you were in a coma, but that was not the case)
F: Euh, hij zegt nee, ik ben er naar mijn gevoel altijd geweest, jullie merkten het niet. (Eh, he says no, to my feelings I've always been there, you just didn't notice)
I: En hoe was dat dan, je lag daar en je kon iedereen horen, of hoe ging dat? (and how did that work, you just lay there en you could hear everyone, or what?)
F: (camera flashes) Ik kon alles zien, horen, ik nam gewoon niet deel aan het leven. (I could see and hear everything, I just didn't participate in it (in life))
I: Ja, ben je dan achteraf gezien kwaad dat niemand dat doorhad (Yes, in hindsight, are you mad that no one understood this?)
F: De enige waar ik ooit kwaad ben op geweest, was ikzelf. Je moest eens weten wat men allemaal geprobeerd heeft, het was niemand zijn schuld. (Lacht) Ja, schuld is nog aan het vormen... (The only person I was mad at, was myself. You don't know aal the things they've tried, it was nobody's fault. (laughs) Yeah 'Fault' is still being output...)
I: En waarom kwaad op jezelf, want jij kon er niets aan doen. (Why be mad at yourself, you couldn't do anything about it)
F: (camera flashes) Euh, ik kon me niet laten zien. (Eh, I couldn't show myself)
I: en nu wel, nu kan je jezelf wel laten zien, nu staan hier allemaal cameraploegen, is dat niet vervelend? (and now you can show yourself, the place is full of television crews, doesn't that bother you?)
F: (camera flashes) (lacht) Hij zegt: wat wil je dat ik je zeg?(lacht) ((lauhgs) He says: what do you want me to say?(laughs))
I: Ja dus (I'll take that as a yes)
F: Euh, ja en nee, vanaf het eerste contact was dit mijn doel, ik had alleen verwacht dat het in eenzelfde tempo als de rest zou gebeuren (nu moet ik effe wachten...) traag met heel veel geduld. (Eh, yes and no, I just thought this would take the same pace as the rest (I have to wait for now - looks like she's waiting for the text to form) slowly, with lots of patience)
I: je hebt al heel veel geleerd, want je kan nu communiceren, je kan met je vinger zeggen wat je wil zeggen. (You've already learned a lot, you can communicate now, you can use your finger to say what you want to say)
F: (lacht) en hoe ! ((laughs) and how!)
I: en wat verwacht je zelf nog van de toekomst, wat wil je zelf bereiken? (and what do you expect from the future, what are your goals?)
F: Ok, rustig he. Dit is allemaal wat veel, ik moet dringend nieuwe doelen stellen (pause) effe wachten he, gelukkig zijn is voorlopig voldoende (OK, (to patient: be calm.) This is all a bit much, I have to set new goals for myself (pauses - to interviewer: wait a bit). To be happy is enough for the time being.
I: dank je wel (thank you)
F: (lacht) Hij zegt sorry dat ik er niet uitzie ((laughs) He says sorry for my appearance)

That's it folks. I think the original comments and article tell us more about the style of reporting of the English speaking press, where items of more than 30 seconds bore the viewer. The VRT clip is one camera take (except where the responses take too long, in which case I've indicated it with (camera flashes)), and for those of you who haven't seen the clip, I can assure that it is full of long boring silences.

We don't know how long Rom Houben has been training with his keyboard and facilitator, but it looks like this story should not be dismissed out of hand.
--
Michel Godfroid







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Simple test of FC
written by questors, November 25, 2009
What language is Houben communicating in? Likely Flemish though many Belgians know French, English, and German, too. Have an FC expert who speaks only a language that Houben does not know facilitate the communication. Same test could be done for autistic kids but maybe false hope is better than none.
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...
written by bmwatson, November 25, 2009
On a more serious note, I was disappointed to see the large number of negative votes for the poster who accused Mr. Randi of a left-oriented bias on the topic of global warming. This disturbingly demonstrates a bias among SWIFT readers.


@Caller X:
You may be right, but I think the negative votes had more to do with the rhetorical nonsense that had nothing to do with the article being discussed, than an indication of bias.
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written by Ted Powell, November 25, 2009
On a more serious note, I was disappointed to see the large number of negative votes for the poster who accused Mr. Randi of a left-oriented bias on the topic of global warming. This disturbingly demonstrates a bias among SWIFT readers.

Do you mean Davis, who stated 'I too am "enraged"' and then used that as a hook on which to hang a rant totally unrelated to the current topic?

There is indeed a bias towards staying on topic. Many people find it makes for more fruitful discussions. (It's possible, too, that some voters were influenced by the condescending tone and the flawed logic.)
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Foreign Press Picks up on Randi.org post!
written by MAL_JD, November 25, 2009
I'm back!

Ok, so I am originally Swedish, and still read some of the Swedish Press Online. The Svenska Dagbaldet (http://www.svd.se) managed, on it's home page to have this tidbit. Translation in parentheses provided by me.

Budskap från man i koma ifrågasätts
Ska ha kommunicerat med speciellt tangentbord. Illusionisten James Randi: ”Exempel på bottenlös okunnighet utförd av medicinsk personal.”

(Messages from coma patient questioned)
(Said to have communicated by special keyboard. The Illusionist James Randi comments: "It is an example of a bottemless lack of knowledge carried out by medical personnel.")

The translation is a direct translation as I believe the sentence they were referring to is this one:

This is yet another obvious example of abysmal, practiced, purposeful ignorance by medical personnel - Randi


Eitherway, it is a well written article. A Lars Olson, a brain researcher, is quoted in the piece. He mentiones that Dr. Laureys is a expert in his field and that he has written many peer-reviewed papers on the subject of comas.

He goes on to then say this:
– Men vad gäller den filmsnutt som gick att se där någon använder "facilitated communication" för att hjälpa Houben att uttrycka sig, så håller jag med James Randi så till vida att det absolut inte går att se om Houben alls påverkar tangenttryckningarna, säger Lars Olson som dock menar att man därmed inte kan utesluta att Houben har kunnat förmedla sig på något sätt.

– Det finns förstås vetenskapliga sätt att kontrollera detta, man kan tänka sig att Houben ombeds upprepa samma text med två olika faciliterande personer och se om det blir lika, säger Lars Olson.


I will translate:

(-In regards to the video clip where one could see that someone is using "facillitated communication" to help Houben express himself, I agree with James Randi in that it is impossible to see if it is Houben is the one selecting the keys to push, says Lar Olson who means that as it is not evident, it cannot be exlcuded that Houben might have communicated in some manner.

-There are of course scientific ways in which we can test this. For example one can ask Houben to repeat the same answer with two different facillitators and see if it is the same reply, says Lars Olson.)

It is nice to see that second sentence quote in there as it shows a degree of critical thinking that is needed.

Anyway, the link to the article itself is: http://www.svd.se/nyheter/utri...839455.svd

Yay JREF!

-Martin A. Lessem, J.D.
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Accountability
written by skepticpagan, November 25, 2009
Make her answer up...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31551646/ns/msnbc_tv-dr_nancy/
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...
written by hw, November 25, 2009
I sent an email to Raf Casert, the author of the AP's version of the Houben story: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/s...TE=DEFAULT

He said they were looking into the fraud/self-delusion aspect of the story, and he added an update on the original story, indicating that researchers have checked whether Houben is indeed communicating through his aide. Relevant quote: "Laureys' team showed Houben an object while his aide was taken outside, and when she came back in he was able to write it down correctly, said Prof. Audren Vandaudenhuyse, a colleague of Laureys."

So there you have it: either Houben really is conscious and communicating through his aide, or there is a broader fraud going on here. I don't know why no reporter (at least to my knowledge) hasn't conducted (and filmed) a similar test.

The story still seems very fishy to me, especially when I watch the video of Houben tapping away with his eyes almost closed. If he's so severely paralyzed, how is he able to communicate so dextrously to his aide?
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please reconsider
written by chrisl83, November 25, 2009
Please reconsider your use of the term "autism victims". Having read that you have worker with autistic people I´m surprised that you use this term. I work with autistic people and I´m sure that they do not see themselves as "victims".
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...
written by Urmensch, November 25, 2009
Wow. Using a coma patient as a dowsing rod.
That's a new low.
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To global warming guy
written by szyszek, November 25, 2009
We are not trying to be political and we do not advertise our "leftist agenda". You are inserting politics into it by claiming it is political. We are talking about science here. So happens that the right views often have nothing to do with science. Most scientists agree that there is global warming going on and most scientists agree we are here because of evolution for instance. We have a scientific agenda here, not leftist agenda. Go troll Bill O'Reilly blog.
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@Davis
written by CasaRojo, November 25, 2009
"You have your blinders on if you dont think personal politics affect the objectivity on this site."

Nice hijack. While we're OT, take a break, sit back and relax to some musical Sagan and Hawking- 'A Glorious Dawn' (Cosmos Remixed) Carl sings in whalespeak ---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc
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I know, I know.....
written by Pinkymcfatfat, November 25, 2009
Davis...Ok, but my question is this, how does Rom, the Belgian guy this topis is ABOUT, feel about global warming? He's had 23 years to sit and think about it! He's watched a lot of news shows during that time surely, is he left or right leaning (or just plain leaning from the look of the video)on the topic? Has he been influenced by his Facilitated Communicator?
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msnbc
written by ClareZ, November 25, 2009
I did notice that there was, not very prominently but there nonetheless, a rebuttal opinion about the story which can be found at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34...alth_care/

Arthur Caplan, Ph.D.asks many of the same questions Randi does. He interestingly also questioned why someone who was ignored so cruelly for 23 years could be so precise and coherent and forgiving in his demeanor. Good question among many. It is good to see that the site that brought us this flim flam at least tucked a little teeny rebuttal into its back pages.
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facilitator
written by ClareZ, November 25, 2009
What I haven't seen anyone mention, though I may have missed it, is that the the facilitator is mighty quick on the draw. Considering how coma man can barely move it is a true wonder she can type so fast on just the very subtle muscle cues he is supposedly giving her. I do not think if I said the letters out loud that someone guiding my hand would be that fast. And with his eyes closed! Truly amazing. ;>
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my ooops to Culmidon
written by ClareZ, November 25, 2009
I thought I had read everything first - did not see you had already posted the rebuttal link.
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The Belgian Dutch (state) television report still not convincing
written by Blaine Sternin, November 25, 2009
I just watched the video from the Belgian Dutch (state) television report. It is still not convincing. Rom Houben is fast asleep or has his eyes closed while the facilitator is the only on looking at the screen. Even if we assume that he communicating, wouldn't you think that after all those years in a "locked" in state that it would take him some time to formulate his thoughts and relay them to the facilitator? I mean wouldn't it take seconds if not minutes between words? What I seen was a facilitator moving Rom's hand freely from one letter to the next. Needs a real double blind test to really know if he is communicating or not. As far as the the blind test they did, were not those that conducted the test to gain by keeping this story alive? I have learned over the years to believe about 10% of what you see on TV as it is all to do with ratings and drama at the expense of the truth.

BS
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@Davis
written by CasaRojo, November 26, 2009
"Why is that when someone doesnt tow the company line on this site they are labeled "troll" or accused of hijacking the topic. "

Dooood... There's no company line here. It's a discussion on a specific TOPIC and nothing you've said has contributed to the discussion. Do you truly not realize this? Why not go to the JREF forum and start a thread there so YOU can discuss what YOU want to discuss? Don't bother responding to this as I'll not address you again if you refuse to stay ON TOPIC and I encourage others to do the same. Perhaps you've made a connection from FC to global climate change or maybe you have a legitimate question for Mr. Randi. Why not email him, or Jeff or whomever or start a thread at the forum as I've suggested. You are NOT being helpful here in this discussion, you are being disruptive and counter productive. That's pretty much the definition of trolling. Hope this answers your question. Happy Thanksgiving.
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@ChrisI83
written by Pinkymcfatfat, November 26, 2009
Good comment about the autistic not seeing themselves as 'victims', I personally don't understand why it was voted down...

Temple Grandin doesn't see herself as a victim, just as a scientist. Amanda Baggs, who communicates with a keyboard, doesn't see herself as a victim either and has addressed the issue of the autistic being seen as 'possessed' and 'needing to be saved' many times. There is a definite movement among autistic adults to have acceptance among the 'neurologically normal' (the public at large), to just be accepted as people who are different and not be subjected to quack cures and therapies.

Facilitated Communication demeaned autistic individuals...I remember watching a news show back in the day of a Facilitator with a boy of about 12. The boy wasn't even looking at the screen and his finger was made to tap out some pretty horrible, sappy poetry about various religious subjects. There was talk in the segment of the poetry soon being published. How horrible! I can imagine that boy being deeply ashamed that the work was being atributed to him, and the Facilitator being thrilled that her work was finally being published.

Which brings me to Rom. I fear that a 'uplifting' book full of cliches is going to published sometime soon and attributed to him.
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@MadScientist
written by tmac57, November 26, 2009
MadScientist- Your comments about Dr Laureys suggest that you believe that he is not legitimate. Here is a comment by Dr Steve Novella about Dr Laureys from his post on this case over at his blog Neurologica:
"As a result Dr. Steven Laureys did some advanced neuro-imaging on Mr. Houben. Laureys is a neurologist with not only legitimate but impressive expertise in coma and disorders of consciousness. Often the press throws around the term “top expert” without any meaning, but in this case the term seems appropriate."

"I do not know what imaging was done, but Dr. Laureys’ team is doing research using functional MRI scanning and MRI spectroscopy – techniques which infer brain function from blood flow or metabolism. They are using these scanning techniques, during resting and activated states, to see how much cortical brain function there is in patients in apparent coma."
Perhaps Dr Laureys is just naive about FC, but his credentials may be better than you suspect.
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Doing my part...
written by slivingston, November 26, 2009
Hi all,

I am a social psychologist and skeptic who writes for the online presence of Psychology Today magazine. I commented on the Houben story, highlighting the problems with FC and suggesting a simple demonstration for testing its validity in Houben's case. I used the link cited in Randi's update -- given that the "eyes closed" footage seems to be used very sparingly in the news coverage, I thought it would be useful to spread it around.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tinted-lenses/200911/is-anybody-in-there
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Let's get all the facts...
written by Schippel, November 26, 2009
So far everything I have read on this site is based on a couple of short video clips and comments from talking head reporters and doctors who have never seen the patient. We don't know what the raw video footage was supposed to be showing.

A blind test was apparently done to test the facilitator. I do not know the specifics of the test except that the doctor showed the patient a set of car keys then the facilitator was brought in the the patient "typed" the word key. Lets get all the facts before we jump to conclusions about this case. For my part I recommend reading and listening to NPR.ORG's stories for a little more information:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120784397

and:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120684777

Lets not fall into the trap of disinformation that we accuse others of.

Now I pass the soapbox to the next person.
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...
written by ClareZ, November 26, 2009
Below is something else I found on the subject. He also mentioned a blogger calling it a 'cruel hoax'. Wonder who that was?? [removed]void(0); wink Given the information below I would have to withhold judgment for now. It looks like there may be more than we know. The only red flag is where he refuses to discuss some of the tests her performed citing medical secrecy and patient's rights concerns. Hmmm.

However, he does seem to 'get' people's concerns and also seems to 'get' science so we shall see. I hope that there is some follow up in the future with a little more definitive evidence. Like someone pointed out, a clip of the subject writing while his eyes are closed could be a production thing rather than reality.

And as far as his mother noticing anything wrong, I doubt it. No one has a bigger investment in this unfortunate man than she does and I am sure she can believe anything she puts her mind to if it benefits her son.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091126/ap_on_re_eu/eu_belgium_coma_recovery

"For me, there are two questions: Is he conscious? Can he communicate? That is 'yes' twice," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Doctors point out that it has been three years since Houben was discovered to be conscious and he has had much time to improve his communication skills. In the early stages they were basic and through practice he has been able to communicate as fluidly as he does now, they say.

One of the checks Laureys applied to verify Houben was really communicating was to send the speech therapist away before showing his patient different objects.(my question: is this the reporter or the doctor - objects or object?) When the aide came back and Houben was asked to say what he saw, that same hand held by the aide punched in the right information, he said.

He said there are many more tests he and his team conducted that he won't divulge because they are covered by medical secrecy and patients rights. "How would you like me discussing your IQ on the Internet?" he asked.*********
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written by gr8white, November 26, 2009
I'd like to thank Mr. Randi for sharing this. I first read about it in a completely uncritical article in my local newspaper, and it wasn't clear whether FC was involved, but I wondered about it.

This man may actually be conscious as the alleged brain scans indicate, and it may be true that he was able to answer simple yes/no questions using his foot. But neither of these has any bearing on whether he is actually producing the typed communication. I don't see how anyone can watch the videos and not see that the therapist is actually doing the work.

As to the supposed tests where he was shown objects while the facilitator was away, we have only the doctor's word on that, and in any case if the tests did occur they clearly weren't rigorous. Presumably they weren't even blinded in any way so there could have been some Clever Hans effect going on.
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written by gr8white, November 26, 2009
I do have to disagree with one point. "A simple test...would prove that FC is a total fraud." I don't think a test of any given instance can be generalized to cover all instances. After all it's not impossible that something is true in one case but not others.

However, if there were actual cases where this is working one would think eventually one of them would be successfully tested. As far as I know this hasn't happened. So I still believe the preponderance of evidence indicates it is not a real phenomenon.
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written by MarcvdAkker, November 26, 2009
Steven Laurey also runs the so-called the coma science group: http://www.coma.ulg.ac.be/inform.html that on their site links to real FC-sites. He runs his busyness on a real university!
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Independent confirmation needed
written by hw, November 26, 2009
The plot is certainly thickening on this story. I would really like to see a televised test of this FC business performed by an independent source. Currently we only have the claims of the research team to go by. Is anyone here aware of any attempts of interviewers to straightforwardly test this FC claim?
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written by Mark P, November 27, 2009
I am a climate change sceptic, but I am in agreement with the people who voted down the rude interruptions above.

Discussion should be on topic, and done calmly. Anything else is trolling. Even when correct.

Personally, I think moderators should remove any comments that far off topic. It's not censorship, because similar comments made in a suitable discussion should be allowed to remain.
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written by jcwept, November 27, 2009
Has anybody asked Mr. Houben his opinion on global warming? Maybe then we could get back on topic.
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written by Blaine Sternin, November 27, 2009
I don't think anyone here including James Randi is denying that Mr.Houben is fully conscious and in a locked in state. What I am upset about is that someone is taking advantage of the Mr. Houben's situation for there own personal interests. They claim they did test but I am not convinced until they actually do a double blind controlled test. They say they showed him keys with the facilitator out of the room and then when the facilitator came back into the room she types it out. Was Mr. Holbens mother or a family member present in the room at the time? If they were could they be inadvertently signaling to the facilitator the correct answer? The sad thing is if this is proved as a hoax then anyone in the future that maybe genuinely in a locked in state will be met with skepticism and not get the help they need.

BS
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It's all about FC
written by Dr.Sid, November 27, 2009
As was said, with today's computers there are better methods of communicating with such patients. Relying on faciliator shows amateurism at least. Even if the method was successfully tested in some cases, it was also proven that in some cases it was manipulated.
The patient had closed eyes, and the 'keyboard' used has no haptic feedback, no real keys .. you simply have to WATCH to use it. With his impaired hands movement, typing by heart is out of questions too. So at least in that case, the faciliator was 'talking' instead of the patient.
And inserting words into someone's proclamations is worse then censorship.
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written by Nekura, November 27, 2009
Another thing to consider, even if an individual can pass any sort of FC verification, that does not automatically mean that every communication from them is genuine. There should be a strong shadow of doubt on every word obtained through FC, even after any number of tests are passed. A good way would be to not use dedicated 'facilitators' for individuals, but change on a regular basis, and compare outputs.
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Belgian Media Response
written by gretemike, November 27, 2009
A Belgian newspaper reported Randi's criticism (in Dutch):

http://www.hbvl.be/nieuws/binnenland/aid882183/twijfels-over-verhaal-van-vermeende-limburgse-comapatient.aspx

(By the way, roughly 60% of Belgians, the Flemish, speak Dutch, about 40% speak French and a couple small towns speak German)

The gist of it is that this Dr. Laureys insists that brain scans demonstrate that the patient's brain activity is entirely intact. ("Hij stelt duidelijk dat hersenscans aantonen dat zijn hersenactiviteit volledig intact is.").

Anyone know more about the alleged brain scans?
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Clues in the written text of the facilitator
written by TheDavid, November 27, 2009
Just looking at the text of what the facilitator typed is enough to raise some flags. My following arguments are a bit subjective and also may be based on possible translation/reporting inaccuracies but let's look at some of the statements allegedly made by this individual through the facilitator.

1. “Someone had thrown away the key forever, ... In the eyes of the world I was a sporty young man who had suddenly become a vegetable.
I was lying there but was I really there? Well, I was there day in, day out." --
This really looks like it is written in the third person; for instance, he says "I was there", instead of "here". To describe himself how the world sees him ("in the eyes of the world") is more natural for the facilitator (or anyone following his story) than for him himself. "was I really there?" is a question that occurs to people viewing him, but doesn't seem to be a natural thing for him to express, because from his point of view, he has always been there.
2. "I screamed but there was nothing to hear." -- This too sounds like something from the point of view of the facilitator; it would be more reasonable for the patient to say "I tried to scream but could not make a sound", since he apparently was quite capable of hearing everything else that went on in the room. For him to say there was nothing to hear seems a bit strange. However, from the point of view of someone in the room, one could imagine him screaming on the inside and for this observer, the overall synopsis would be that no sound was made, or "there was nothing to hear", exactly as the facilitator typed.
3. "I cried out, but no-one heard me." -- Ditto, again it would be strange to say it this way when he knows he couldn't make a sound. It seems very third person to say "no-one heard me" when what he really means is that he couldn't make a sound.
4. "I became the witness to my own suffering as doctors and nurses tried to speak to me and eventually gave up" -- Saying that you are a witness to your own suffering seems to be indicative of being written in the third person. And saying that the doctors and nurses "tried to speak to me" is how an observer would describe what happened. The patient would say that the doctors and nurses spoke to him but he could not reply (because from his point of view, they didn't "try" to speak to him, they actually did).
5. "I heard, I saw, I felt, but only deep inside, hidden from everyone, but not from myself" Again, from his point of view he was not hidden; he was always there, always listening and seeing. "Hidden" is more how people would view him. To say that he felt "only deep inside" is also how it would seem to someone who is following his story, but for him, it was not "deep inside". What he heard and saw and felt was his only existence and he would not describe it as deep inside. However, when people look at someone in a coma, it is quite natural to think that the person is "hidden" in there somewhere, that they are "deep" inside that head somewhere. This sounds like what the facilitator imagined people thought about the patient, not what the patient thought.

Anyway, as I said, the text I quoted from the articles may have been mistranslated or misreported in some ways, and my arguments above are not very conclusive. In fact, I can come with plausible counterarguments to explain each of my objections above, but taken as a whole, I really get the feeling that the text attributed to him is written in the third person, i.e., coming consciously or unconsciously from the facilitator.

Anyway, that was my 2 cents. Coupled with the scientific weight against the validity of facilitated communication and the relatively weak evidence of any unbiased tests (the doctor mentioned some single-blind word tests), I have to believe that the patient is not really communicating through the facilitator, until proven otherwise. For the sake of the family, I hope efforts are taken to prove this one way or the other, not just to the man's family but to the public in general, because the public speculation of deception has a strong negative impact on the family, regardless of what the truth actually is.

Thanks for reading,

- David
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Two Issues
written by gretemike, November 27, 2009
It strikes me that there are two separate issues here. FC is only the first issue. The second issue surrounds the alleged brain scans and it's evaluation obviously requires some expertise. It's plausible to have bogus FC and a conscious patient.
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written by Skeptigirl, November 27, 2009
written by Blaine Sternin, November 27, 2009
I don't think anyone here including James Randi is denying that Mr.Houben is fully conscious and in a locked in state.
Well I, for one, am stating unequivocally, we have not seen any evidence this man is fully conscious.

I find the supposed PET scan evidence intriguing, but given the erroneous reporting we've seen up to this point, where is your evidence?
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written by Skeptigirl, November 27, 2009
written by Blaine Sternin, November 27, 2009
... The sad thing is if this is proved as a hoax then anyone in the future that maybe genuinely in a locked in state will be met with skepticism and not get the help they need.
Blaine, it appears you are new to this hoax, but I assure you it has already been proved to be a hoax.
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Is what we see even physiologically possible?
written by Pierre-Normand, November 27, 2009
I watched the Belgian Dutch (state) television report migod11 linked and kindly translated. I was amazed, as many commentators also have been, by the speed and smoothness of the allegedly assisted typing. One may also wonder if such performances are even consistent with our (tentative) understanding of human sensori-motor physiology. Fine-tuned purposive movements of limbs aiming at reaching and grasping objects or striking keys can rely on sensory feedbacks for fine adjustments. However, in order to achieve not only precision but also speed and smoothness, something like efference-copy might be required. This is because of the relatively slow propagation of nerve signals as compared with the short durations of the component tasks. Efference-copy occurs when motor signals are not only being sent to muscles but are also being used internally (copied) by the nervous system in order to generate a predictive feedback signal (corollary discharges). This enables one to adjust and fine tune limb movements in advance of actual sensory feedback. The brain can thus generate the motor signal to slow down one's hand movement and grasp a coffee cup, or strike a key, before there is actual sensory feedback about the target being reached. (See the wikipedia article about "efference copy" and Susan Hurley's discussion, specifically of the two first 'layers', in her "Shared circuit model", and references therein).

The trouble, now, in Houben's facilitated typing is that efference-copy can't possibly perform its function. The determinate motor signals Houben generates would have to be copied to the brain of the facilitator, which, baring telepathy, is impossible. The facilitator would thus have to wait for actual sensory feedback when she approaches the target (the key Houben intends to strike) in order to fine tune the movement. And this is not what we see. There is no hesitation at all. I conclude that if the movement is so smooth and speedy, that's because it is being fine tuned by efference copy after all. But the copied motor signal must be correlated with the facilitator's prior typing intention, not Houben's.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efference_copy
http://www.bbsonline.org/Preprints/Hurley-05252004/Referees/Hurley-05252004_preprint.pdf
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written by gretemike, November 27, 2009
written by Skeptigirl, November 27, 2009:

"I find the supposed PET scan evidence intriguing, but given the erroneous reporting we've seen up to this point, where is your evidence?"

Well, I'm not really offering any evidence per se. I'm merely reporting what I read in the Belgian newspaper hbvl.be and asking if anyone has the expertise necessary to say whether consciousness can be determined via any imaging? If so, it seems to me that the Belgian press could offer to have an independent radiologist (or whatever) do an independent read of the scan. That would be the most irrefutable method I think to determine whether this is a hoax, assuming that the imaging result is not dependent upon subjective interpretation.

Okay, time to go back to work . . .

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Neurologist
written by gretemike, November 27, 2009
Okay, couldn't resist, there is a blog on this topic written by a bonafide neurologist:

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2838

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His eyes are moving - is that also fake?
written by jev, November 27, 2009
Dear Mr. Randi
If you take a close look at this video, you can see, that the man's eyes are moving. http://nyhederne.tv2.dk/articl...45030.html
At about 25 seconds his head is moving, but you can clearly see, that his eyes are fixed at a point, probably the monitor. Surely his hand is moved by someone else in the same video, but the eyes? Unless you can prove (not just argue but actually prove) that someone is moving his eyes or manipulated the video, i think you lost this case.

Best regards,
Jesper Petersen, Denmark
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written by Gabby, November 28, 2009
Jev
Where in the world did you get the idea that we're saying his eyes can't move?
Watch all the videos linked to this post. Now, explain exactly how the act of squeezing his eyes shut gives him the ability to see the touchscreen out of his left ear in order to continue to "reply" to questions. Then we'll talk.
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written by Skeptigirl, November 28, 2009
His eyes are moving - is that also fake?
...
Dear Mr. Randi
If you take a close look at this video, you can see, that the man's eyes are moving. http://nyhederne.tv2.dk/articl...l...Unless you can prove (not just argue but actually prove) that someone is moving his eyes or manipulated the video, i think you lost this case.

Best regards,
Jesper Petersen, Denmark
Your evidence that his eyes are moving is supposed to counter Randi's observation that what is being typed by the well known discredited tactic known as facilitated communication is fake? Try again.
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written by ClareZ, November 28, 2009
Dear Mr. Randi
If you take a close look at this video, you can see, that the man's eyes are moving. http://nyhederne.tv2.dk/articl...45030.html
At about 25 seconds his head is moving, but you can clearly see, that his eyes are fixed at a point, probably the monitor. Surely his hand is moved by someone else in the same video, but the eyes? Unless you can prove (not just argue but actually prove) that someone is moving his eyes or manipulated the video, i think you lost this case.


That is like saying I have an orange, therefore you have no apples so you lose your case. Huh? One does not equal the other. The case is that FC is bogus. And so far nothing has pointed to the fact that this man is actually communicating himself. And that is the point. Whether he is conscious or not is not the dispute. Even if we accept that the doctor is right about that, that does not mean that FC is useful for this poor man. Quite the opposite. Unless his real aspiration was to become a marionette.
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His eyes are moving - so what?
written by szyszek, November 28, 2009
It is normal for people in vegetative state to move their eyes, movement of the eyes does not indicate consciousness.

From Wikipedia:
Most PVS (Persistent Vegetative State) patients are unresponsive to external stimuli and their conditions are associated with different levels of consciousness. Some level of consciousness means a person can still respond, in varying degrees, to stimulation. A person in a coma, however, cannot. In addition, PVS patients often open their eyes in response to feeding, which has to be done by others; they are capable of swallowing, whereas patients in a coma subsist with their eyes closed (Emmett, 1989).

PVS patients' eyes might be in a relatively fixed position, or track moving objects, or move in a disconjugate (i.e. completely unsynchronized) manner. They may experience sleep-wake cycles, or be in a state of chronic wakefulness. They may exhibit some behaviors that can be construed as arising from partial consciousness, such as grinding their teeth, swallowing, smiling, shedding tears, grunting, moaning, or screaming without any apparent external stimulus.

Link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P...tive_state
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A Vegetative Statement
written by kunjamuk, November 30, 2009
After many years of not living in a "vegetative" or "autistic" state in a world that has proven itself to be "insane" over and over, I've come to the conclusion that these people are the only "sane" people among us. They have either fallen into or purposefully gone somewhere else. I have no choice but to either envy them for having fallen into that place or admire them for their good sense in going there. As for the wakos trying to communicate with them I say..."get a life! They did. They don't need you."
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I HAVE PLACED MY ORDER WITH AMAZON.
written by TREVOR PATTISON, December 02, 2009
Well I'm looking forward to reading his book. It should ne a fascinating if somewhat gruesome read.
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Steven Laureys admits Houben cannot communication with Facilitated Communication
written by JamesTTodd, February 14, 2010
All:

Der Spiegel, the German magazine, has published a follow-up to the Houben case in which neuroscientist Steven Laureys now admits that Rom Houben could not actually communicate, as previously claimed, with facilitated communication. The article is short on detail, but essentially says that Laureys did a 15-item message-passing test, and that Houben did not produce a single correct answer. I have provided a translation of the relevant section of the article, essentially the middle of the first page of the article, at the end of this message. This information comes to me from my colleague in Germany, Allmuth Bober.

The top link below is the new article in which Laureys admits his error. The second is to a previous article about Houben in Der Spiegel.

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,677599,00.html

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,662625,00.html

The second link above, to the article, "Meine zweite Geburt" ["My Rebirth"], is referenced in the new article. Der Spiegel now admits that the information in "Meine zweite Geburt" was not genuine.

"Auch die Auskünfte, die Houben Ende vorigen Jahres dem SPIEGEL gab, stammten demnach nicht von ihm."
[Additionally, the information that Houben gave to the SPIEGEL last year, therefore, did not come from him.]

Oddly, the new article also talks of another person who could supposedly communicate with FC--maybe. It is unclear whether this person was a control subject doing FC, or something else. It is not unusual for FC advocates to admit failure in specific cases, only to believe that the next untested one is genuine. Given how thoroughly that Laureys fell for FC with Houben, which was remarkably clumsy even by FC standards, we should not be surprised if he continues to believe in FC generally. A statement from Laureys, translated below, sound just like the rhetoric we have been hearing from Douglas Biklen for decades now. We will keep you posted.

Die Methode des "Gestützten Schreibens" an sich ist damit aber nicht unbedingt diskreditiert. Ein anderer gelähmter Proband mit vergleichbarer Hirndiagnose, den Laureys ebenfalls untersuchte, lag bei den Kontrollfragen 15-mal richtig: "Das bedeutet, man muss wirklich jeden Einzelfall prüfen."

[The method of "assisted writing" itself is thus discredited, but not necessarily. Laureys also investigated the control questions with another paralyzed respondent with a similar brain diagnosis, obtaining 15 correct answers: "It means you have to really examine each individual case."]

It is good to see that some science has finally been applied to this case. We wish it were a more thorough double-blind test--but this is often all we get in these cases. However, it also remains a tragedy that facilitated communication continues to be promoted and used around the world despite the overwhelming scientific evidence against its validity. It is both sad and troubling that this simple test was not done with Mr. Houben a long time ago, or that FC was avoided altogether, so that he might have used the lost time to learn to communicate whatever he is capable of in a genuine way.

James T. Todd, Ph.D.


Translation of selected section of recent Der Spiegel article:

The staff at the nursing home had tried it first with an onscreen keyboard, which he used with his right, not completely paralyzed finger. For a while it looked like a good idea: With a little practice Houben succeeded , typing rapidly. And, while he made many mistakes, his messages could be understood.

A speech therapist had, however, stood behind him and supported his hand. The neurologist Laureys said that he was previously convinced speech therapist was not doing the writing.

However, Laureys now realizes that the examination was not thorough enough. To obtain valid results, the patient must undergo a lengthy procedure. People with severe traumatic brain injury are not always willing to follow complex instructions, they frequently fall asleep, and sometimes they sink into prolonged delirium. To avoid invalid results, repeated testing over several weeks is needed.

Laureys has now carried out these tests. Result: Houben said Houben probably not even have enough strength and muscle control in his right arm to accurately type. The speech therapist, in an effort to help the man type, unconsciously took the lead - such illusions occur in the method again and again. Additionally, the information that Houben gave to the SPIEGEL last year, therefore, did not come from him.

In the current test series, Houben saw or heard 15 items,, while the speech therapist was absent. Then, the man would each write down the correct word - succeeding not once.

The method of "assisted writing" itself is thus discredited, but not necessarily. Laureys also investigated the control questions with another paralyzed respondent with a similar brain diagnosis, obtaining 15 correct answers: "It means you have to really examine each individual case."
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@JamesTTodd
written by CasaRojo, February 14, 2010
Thank you for this Dr. Todd. You may want to directly email this to Mr. Randi at---> randi@randi.org
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written by JamesTTodd, February 20, 2010
All:

My colleague in Germany, Allmuth Bober, sends news that the Belgian Skeptics, SKEPP, have released heretofore embargoed information about a controlled test of the facilitated communication ability of Mr. Houben.

http://skepp.be/nieuws/facilitated-communication-coma-patient-fabricated

The page above is in English, with links at the bottom to details given in Dutch. Fortunately, Google translate does a reasonable job with Dutch to English.

Basically, SKEPP was present for message passing tests and did some tests of their own. Needless to say, no valid messages were typed when the facilitator did not hear the questions. Steven Laureys seemed to think that tests with additional facilitators should be done--suggesting that he remained less than sufficiently conversant in the long and sordid history of facilitated communication despite his original endorsement of it.

Kudos are due the members of SKEPP for bringing science and rationality to this sad and bizarre situation.

James T. Todd, Ph.D.



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written by Potty Training, February 26, 2010
Sp did msnbc ever do anything about it? they even get back to you? Very interesting and would love to know how it played out now that some time has pased.
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written by paper writing service, March 25, 2010
this should be look into more exhaustively. people' hopes are at stake here. you can't just say one thing works when it actually is manipulated if that is really the case
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This Cruel Farce Has To Stop!
written by NYC Limousine, April 17, 2010
Totally makes sense in terms of supporting his idea

Cheers

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written by Chat Software, May 16, 2010
It's on this page http://www.baam.emich.edu/baam...mvideo.htm
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thanks
written by custom essays, May 21, 2010
I am supportin the idea as well. very nice post.. there are too many comments here and I have nothing to ad except my appreaciation to the author. thanks
Adam
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Stupidity Kills
written by benjrobjohnson, May 31, 2010
I could not imagine how stupidity can deprive a person of his own freedom and good lifetime health condition just because of what a medical person said about something.
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Support you more
written by adam2009, August 16, 2010
I've decided to come back and see if you posted an update link to your post. Again, you have my support
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Ignorance is bliss? WRONG!
written by potty training boys, September 02, 2010
It goes to show you that what you don't know will make your home a permanent urn...
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yeah
written by Antique Perfume, September 27, 2010
I don't agree with everything in this post, but you do make some very good points. Im very interested in this topic and I myself do alot of research as well. Either way it was a well thoughtout and nice read so I figured I would leave you a comment.
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So great!
written by Green invitations, September 29, 2010
Hi!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, you know what your too strong. Your a kind of a person who really had a great thoughts.
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written by Custom papers, November 24, 2010
You made some decent points there. I did a search on the issue and found most individuals will consent with your blog.

Custom papers
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This Cruel Farce Has To Stop!
written by Custom Papers, November 29, 2010
This Cruel Farce Has To Stop and I think that this is really good it is need to get it stop and such things are really for stopping, I think that the information is good one to have for knowledge also.
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written by Roger, December 06, 2010
Novanglus is correct, Randi is dead. He is communicating via a full-body facilitator. There is some doubt that the opinions Randi is expressing are indeed his own or merely the opinions of the facilitator.
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written by Custom term papers, December 22, 2010
The article submission and science article submission used to be the pretty popular choose of different people. Thus, you have to use it for your superb story relating with this post.

Custom term papers
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Good points made here...
written by Carol Cline, January 06, 2011
I agree that things like child behavior problems and such have to stop!
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Nice Pointers and very well written
written by Engagement Rings Boston, January 24, 2011
I have gone through your post. Its great and very nicely written on selected topic. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I look forward your next information very soon. I love to revisit your post and get more information from it.
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