It was a feel-good triumph over tragedy story that was reported by the media around the world last year.
Belgian Rom Houben "woke up" from a 23-year long coma in a hoax and was able to communicate.
But BBC News is now reporting: "The doctor who believed that Rom Houben was communicating through a facilitator now says the method does not work. Dr Steven Laureys told the BBC: "The story of Rom is about the diagnosis of consciousness, not communication."
The BBC says: "His conclusions follow a study to test the validity of so-called facilitated communication. Claims that Houben - who was seriously injured in a car crash in 1983 - could communicate were reported around the world last November. After more than two decades in a coma, he was filmed apparently tapping out messages on a special touchpad keyboard with the help of his speech therapist. By holding Mr Houben's forearm and finger, the therapist was said to feel sufficient pressure to direct her to the correct keys on the keyboard.
"Dr Laureys, a neurologist at Liege University Hospital in Belgium, had earlier established that Mr Houben, was more conscious than doctors had previously thought - and that is still thought to be the case.
"But he also believed that his interaction with the speech therapist was genuine. Following further study, however, Dr Laureys says the method does not work.
"He told the BBC that a series of tests on a group of coma patients, including Mr Houben, had concluded that the method was after all false. The results of the study were presented in London on Friday."
Back in November I reported how Michael Shermer on Huffington Post had questioned the veracity of the story. He wrote: "Houben's communications, his 'statements' about how he's been aware all along of his condition, his 'talking' to reporters (all descriptive terms used by hardened journalists softened into bleeding heart jelly) is nothing more than the "ideomotor" effect, where the brain subtly and subconsciously guides the hands and fingers over a keyboard, or a Ouija board, or directs the movements of dowsing rods in search of underground water. You think it, the hand will move there."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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