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Coma Misrepresented By Hollywood

The portrayal of coma and awakening from a coma is grossly inaccurate in major motion pictures, research shows, and many moviegoers are unable to tell fact from fiction. They admit that what they see in films regarding coma may impact real-life decisions for a loved one.

In a review of 30 movies from 1970 to 2004 with actors depicting prolonged coma, coma experts found that only two showed a "reasonably accurate" representation of coma.

Problems with the depiction of coma included comatose patients, without feeding tubes, suddenly waking after years of being in a coma with no physical or mental problems and with a Sleeping Beauty-like appearance.

The report is in this month's journal, Neurology.

"Miraculous awakening from prolonged coma with no long-lasting effects was a typical feature," report Dr. Eelco F. Wijdicks, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and his son Coen Wijdicks, who is working on a master's degree in anatomy and cell biology at Rush University in Chicago.

Not showing typical coma-related effects such as muscle wasting, bed sores and incontinence may be a conscious decision on the part of filmmakers to "maximize entertainment but is a disservice to the viewer"  according to the coma study authors.

Virtually all of the films showed the comatose person with eyes shut at all times, when in reality people in comas often have their eyes open or open them in response to speech or pain. Hollywood has gone so far as showing a comatose person tapping out a message in Morse code with his finger.

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