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Wake-up from coma with miracle tale

Rome, Oct. 5 (Reuters): An Italian man who spent two years supposedly unconscious in a deep coma, written off by doctors as nearly-dead, awoke saying he heard and understood everything happening around him during the long ordeal, his family said.

Salvatore Crisafulli, a father of four, is describing his case as a “miracle” which proves that lost causes are anything but hopeless and his recovery appeared to strengthen the hand of Italians opposed to end-of-life solutions.

Even though the case is not medically comparable, his brother called Crisafulli “an Italian Terri Schiavo case” with reference to the brain-damaged Florida woman who died in March after her feeding tube was removed.

“The doctors said that I wasn’t conscious, but I understood everything and I cried in desperation,” Crisafulli was quoted as saying in Italian media today.

The comments were relayed through his brother in Sicily as Crisafulli, 38, slowly started recovering.

He emerged from the coma, caused by a 2003 road accident, three months ago but only began speaking recently. His first word was “Mamma”, his mother told the press.

News of his recovery hit Italy at about the same time as a national bioethics committee defended obligatory care for unconscious patients ' even those who opposed extraordinary medical measures to keep them alive.

The government committee, which acts as a reference point for lawmakers, voted in favour of the stance late last month, but the position paper is still being finalised.

“To feed an unconscious patient through a tube is not a medical act,” said the committee’s president, Francesco D’Agostino, in reported comments confirmed by his office.

“It’s like giving a bottle to a newborn baby who can’t be nursed by its mother... And then we reflect on the Schiavo case. The woman was left to die of starvation.” Doctors say Schiavo was not in a coma but in a persistent vegetative state, a different medical condition. Many exams showed her brain was barely functioning. An autopsy after her death showed she could never have recovered consciousness.

But the Schiavo case was closely followed in Italy, where the Roman Catholic Church demanded doctors keep feeding her, despite the wishes of her husband. Pope John Paul II died two days after Schiavo, and the Vatican had compared the US state court to an “executioner” for ordering her feeding tube removed.

Salvatore will probably never be the same as he was before the accident, and his mother spoke about his poor speech. But his family says he seems to be alert. “My brother speaks and remembers. I don’t expect that he will be like he was, but it's already a miracle,” Pietro said.

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