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Doctor Says Otto Warmbier, Student Released from North Korea Prison, has ‘Extensive Loss of Brain Tissue’

A doctor who examined Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year, addressed the media at a press conference on Thursday. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after he was accused of stealing a sign while visiting the country in 2016. The State Department secured his release and return to the United States, but his parents said that Otto was in a coma.

Dr. Daniel Kanter of University of Cincinnati Health described Warmbier’s neurological condition as “unresponsive wakefulness,” saying that while his eyes do open from time to time and he blinks, Warmbier has shown “no sign of understanding language,” and has not exhibited any “purposeful movements or behavior.”

An MRI showed that Warmbier sustained “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain,” Dr. Kanter said. Warmbier also appeared to have weak arm and leg muscles.

North Korea reportedly said that Warmbier came down with a case of botulism soon after his sentencing, but Dr. Kanter said there was no sign of that condition. Additionally, he showed no signs of infection, and his vital signs are stable.

The cause or circumstances of Warmbier’s condition is unknown, but Kanter said that such a state is usually the result of cardiopulmonary arrest due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

[Image via CNN screengrab]

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