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 Thursday.
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, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program.
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.
On HuffPo, La Sha posted this humanitarian response.
[Otto Warmbier is a] young white man who went to an Asian country and violated their laws, and learned that the shield his cis white male identity provides here in America is not teflon abroad.
As shocked as I am by the sentence handed down to Warmbier, I am even more shocked that a grown man, an American citizen, would not only voluntarily enter North Korea but also commit whatâ€™s been described a â€œcollege-style prank.â€ That kind of reckless gall is an unfortunate side effect of being socialized first as a white boy, and then as a white man in this country. Every economic, academic, legal and social system in this country has for more than three centuries functioned with the implicit purpose of ensuring that white men are the primary benefactors of all privilege. The kind of arrogance bred by that kind of conditioning is pathogenic, causing its host to develop a subconscious yet no less obnoxious perception that the rules do not apply to him, or at least that their application is negotiable.
Headline after headline has highlighted that Otto Warmbier is a student. His LinkedIn profile states that he is majoring Economics with a minor in Global Sustainability and is a Managing Director of an â€œalternative investment fund.â€ A man reared in this country who studies the globe as a part of his higher education curriculum must have been at least passingly aware of the notoriously strained relationship between the United States and North Korea. Surely he had read the stories of Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller, other white American men arrested in North Korea for â€œpetty crimesâ€ who were subsequently sentenced to hard labor.
Yeah, Iâ€™m willing to bet my last dollar that he was aware of the political climate in that country, but privilege is a hell of a drug. The high of privilege told him that North Koreaâ€™s history of making examples out of American citizens who dare challenge their rigid legal system in any way was no match for his alabaster American privilege. When you can watch a white man who entered a theatre and killed a dozen people come out unscathed, you start to believe youâ€™re invincible. When you see a white man taken to Burger King in a bulletproof vest after he killed nine people in a church, you learn that the world will always protect you.
Coming from a country filled with citizens who lambaste black victims of state sanctioned violence by telling us that if we obey the law, we wouldnâ€™t have to face the consequences, Warmbier shouldâ€™ve listened. If he had obeyed North Koreaâ€™s laws, he would be home now. In fact, if he had heeded the U.S. Department of Stateâ€™s strong advisement against travel to North Korea, he would be home right now. And if Eric Garner is to be blamed for his own death for selling loose cigarettes or if Sandra Bland is dead because she failed to signal when changing lanes, then Otto Warmbier is now facing a decade and a half of hard labor because he lacked both good judgment and respect for the national autonomy of a country which has made its hatred for and vendetta against America unequivocally clear.
And while I donâ€™t blame his parents for pressuring the State Department to negotiate his release, I wonder where they were when their son was planning a trip to the DPRK. Didnâ€™t they impress upon him the hostile climate that awaited him? Didnâ€™t they rear him to respect law and order? Did they not teach him the importance of obeying authority?
What a mind-blowing moment it must be to realize after 21 years of being pedestaled by the world simply because your DNA coding produced the favorable phenotype that such favor is not absolute. What a bummer to realize that even the State Department with all its influence and power cannot assure your pardon. What a wake-up call it is to realize that your tears are met with indifference.
As Iâ€™ve said, living 15 years performing manual labor in North Korea is unimaginable, but so is going to a place I know Iâ€™m unwelcome and violating their laws. Iâ€™m a black woman though. The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.
It’s always a bit astonishing for a normally sane person to discover just how vehemently racist some African Americans are, and a bit appalling as well to catch a glimpse of the lurid and extravagant thought world of self-indulgent paranoid fantasy that many of them inhabit.
And it is obviously a very bad thing that so many people make a habit of seeking self-gratification by wallowing in delusions of persecution and projecting vicious prejudices onto everyone unlike themselves, but the kind of people guilty of this sort of thing, at least, have the excuse of being enabled and encouraged by a kind of pathological group think. I don’t see though how anyone can excuse the editors at places like the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Huffington Post who routinely publish these kind of hydrophobic ravings, treating them as some kind of legitimate editorial perspective,