Student detained by North Korea returns with ‘severe’ brain injury, in state of ‘unresponsive wakefulness’
Otto Warmbier returned to Cincinnati on Tuesday after a 17-month detainment by North Korea for drunkenly stealing a sign in Pyongyang International Airport. According to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Warmbier is a vegetable.
“He shows no signs of understanding language,” Dr. Daniel Kanter said, “or responding to verbal commands.”
Warmbier is in stable condition, but appears to have a “severe neurological injury” that has prevented him from speaking or making “any purposeful movements.” Doctors described the 22-year-old’s state as “unresponsive wakefulness.”
North Korea said that Warmbier’s coma lasted most of his detainment and was caused by sleeping pills and the bacterial disease botulism, allegedly contracted shortly after his sentencing in March 2016. University of Cincinnati said Warmbier shows no signs of botulism.
“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma — and we don’t — there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long,” Warmbier’s father Fred said in a press conference Thursday.
He added, “There’s no excuse for the way the North Koreans treated our son. And no excuse for the way they’ve treated so many others. No other family should have to endure what the Warmbiers have.”
Diplomat Dennis Rodman, who is currently in North Korea, declined to comment Tuesday on Warmbier’s condition or that of three other Americans still being detained.
“That’s not my purpose right now,” he said. “My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”
You can watch the Warmbier family’s full press conference below.
[Screenshot: Associated Press]