American student released by North Korea has severe brain injury

16 Jun 2017 | Written by Abheet Sethi; Edited by Ramya

American college student Otto Warmbier, who was released by North Korea on June 13 after 17 months in detention, has received a severe brain injury.

Doctors treating Warmbier said he's in a persistent vegetative state.

North Korea said it released the 22-year-old Warmbier on "humanitarian grounds."

It said Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and ingesting a sleeping pill in March 2016.

In context: Ex-North Korean detainee suffers severe brain damage

16 Mar 2016Detained American tourist in N-Korea gets 15 years jail

In March 2016, Otto Warmbier, the detained American-student-tourist, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in prison by North Korea's Supreme Court.

Warmbier, who was charged with subversion and found guilty, was sentenced during a one hour trial.

Warmbier confessed that he stole a propaganda sign for an acquaintance who wanted to put it in her church.

14 Jun 2017N. Korea releases US student, in coma since a year

North Korea has released 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier from jail, but he is in a coma. He arrived in Ohio on June 13.

His family says they found out only last week that he had been in coma since shortly after his trial in March 2016.

He had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda sign.

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16 Jun 2017American student released by North Korea has severe brain injury

What is botulism?

According to the WHO, Botulism is a rare and "serious, potentially fatal disease," affecting the nervous system caused by neurotoxins released by bacteria clostridium botulinum. Botulism toxins are found in contaminated foods. "Foodborne botulism is characterized by descending, flaccid paralysis that can cause respiratory failure."
Warmbier has received extensive loss of brain tissue

SymptomsWarmbier has received extensive loss of brain tissue

Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Warmbier is in a state described as "unresponsive wakefulness."

They said Warmbier has suffered extensive brain tissue loss in all regions of his brain.

He shows no voluntary movement and lacks awareness of surroundings.

He blinks spontaneously after opening his eyes but isn't showing any signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands.

Otto's father Fred Warmbier lashes out against North Korea

"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."
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ContradictionDoctors unsure of North Korea's claim that Warmbier contracted botulism

Doctors said they are unsure about what caused Warmbiers's injuries and have rejected North Korea's botulism claim.

"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," they said.

Doctors found no evidence of fractures or trauma to his body.

Fred Warmbier calls on Pyongyang to release three US detainees

North Korea continues to detain three other American citizens. "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," Warmbier said. "No other family should have to endure what the Warmbiers have."