“Note to screenwriters and filmgoers: People look bad when they are in comas, and they never, repeat never, get up, unplug themselves from their machines and walk out of the hospital.
A new study published in this month’s journal of the American Academy of Neurology reviewed 30 U.S. and foreign movies with characters in prolonged comas and found that only two of those – Dream Life of Angels and Reversal of Fortunes – contained reasonably accurate representations of coma.
The others often portrayed the comatose as tanned and muscular; as if they were simply in a deep sleep. In reality, their muscles would atrophy and they’d probably be incontinent.
Researchers identified scenes from 17 movies portraying a coma, wakening from a coma, recovery from coma, and physician, nurse and family conversations. They then asked 72 viewers to rate the realism.
The portrayals of comas in movies is important, said Dr. Eelcom Wijdicks [does THAT name strike you as fictional??? Just try to say it aloud without laughing], a lead author of the study and neurologist with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., because people are subconsciously influenced by what they see on screen.
“The wrong representation could lead to the wrong expectations,” Wijdicks said. In the study, 39% of participants said the movie scenes would affect a real-life decision [now THERE'S a scary stat].”