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Warmbier Has Severe Brain Injury, Says Doctors

Washington (June 16, 2017): Otto Warmbier, an American college student imprisoned by North Korea has extensive brain damage and is unresponsive to his surroundings, the doctors treating him said on Thursday.

According to the details, a medical team from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center described Otto Warmbier’s condition as a “state of unresponsive wakefulness” and did not say at the request of his family ,whether the 22-year-old will recover.

Dr Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program, said, “He has spontaneous eye opening and blinking.”

Doctors caring for released North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier said he has not spoken or moved on his own since he arrived in the United States on Tuesday, a condition they described as “unresponsive wakefulness” or persistent vegetative state.

The 22-year-old has suffered extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain, doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said in a news conference.

Also known as persistent vegetative state, the syndrome’s symptoms include no voluntary movement or awareness of surroundings. Warmbier opens his eyes and blinks spontaneously but shows no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands, said Dr. Daniel Kanter.

The news shed light on the Warmbier family’s statement that their son suffered severe brain damage at some point in his 17 months of detention.

His parents said they learned of their son’s condition — what North Korea called a coma — only last week. Earlier Thursday, Fred Warmbier said he rejected the regime’s explanation that his son fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill in March 2016 after his trial for trying to steal a political banner.

The doctors said they had no information about the care he received in North Korea. Though they could not say with certainty what caused his injuries, they found no evidence to support the botulism claim. But an analysis of images from North Korea of Warmbier’s brain dated April 2016 suggests the injury occurred in the preceding weeks.

“We have no certifiable knowledge of the cause or circumstances of his neurological injuries,” Kanter said.

“This pattern of brain injury is usually seen as result of cardiopulmonary arrest where blood supply to (the) brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue.”

Otto Warmbier was a University of Virginia student when he was detained in January 2016 at Pyongyang airport on his way home. He had been on a tour of the reclusive country, his parents said.

North Korean authorities claimed they had security footage of him trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan that was hanging from a wall of his Pyongyang hotel.

That was used as evidence in his hourlong trial. He was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against the country and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor. It was the last time he was seen publicly before this week.

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